The family of the man who was fatally shot by officers March 21 took the first steps Monday to filing a lawsuit against The City, as some are calling the Police Department’s handling of the case ineffective and opaque.
Alejandro Nieto, 28, a San Francisco resident, was killed in Bernal Heights Park after being asked to show his hands but instead drawing a stun gun that was mistaken for a real gun, according to police.
On the steps of City Hall on Monday, about 30 people held a banner asking for justice as a lawyer for the family announced the claim filing with the City Attorney’s Office and called on outside agencies to investigate the incident.
“The version of the story that the police have trotted out, we have concerns and frankly skepticism,” said Adante Pointer, one of the family’s attorneys.
The City has 45 days to respond to the claim, after which the Nieto family can sue for what it says was an unjustified killing.
However, well-known civil-rights attorney John Burris, whose firm is representing the Nietos, said any questions about the incident will never be answered under the current system, therefore the family must sue to find out what really happened.
That system of police oversight, from the Office of Citizen Complaints to the District Attorney’s Office, rarely finds police in the wrong, Burris said. Yet at least three recent incidents — a federal indictment of six officers for allegedly violating constitutional rights, a police-involved shooting that ended with a wounded officer and Nieto’s death — show they do in fact mess up and even break the laws, he said.
“It’s always justified,” said Burris of the findings of most investigations into police shootings.
Some of the questions that remain unanswered include how many times Nieto was shot, the names of the officers involved, and why police questioned the Nieto family and searched their home before informing them of Alejandro Nieto’s death.
While the Nieto family and Burris are asking the District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to look into the incident, they have also begun some of their own investigating.
Police have not said how many times Nieto was shot, but an inspection of his body by investigators working for Burris found at least 10 bullet holes, according to the attorney.
Additionally, said Pointer, they have obtained an audio recording of the incident, which seems to indicate that there was a pause between the two volleys fired at Nieto. That pause, said Pointer, could indicate that Nieto was taken down with two or three shots and then fired on again.
Official investigations underway include two within the Police Department and one by the Office of Citizen Complaints.
Nieto’s family has set up a website, justice4alexnieto.org, and plans to hold an event dubbed Burritos on Bernal Hill on Monday, the one-month anniversary of his death.