Family remembers man shot by police as ‘peaceful,’ seek answers over death 

click to enlarge Bernal Heights Park
  • mike koomin/the s.f. examiner
  • Mourners gather at Bernal Heights Park on Monday, right, to honor Alejandro Nieto, who was fatally shot at the park Friday after allegedly pointing a gun at police. Nieto’s father, Refugio, above, was among the mourners.
A makeshift shrine in Bernal Heights Park marked the spot where Alejandro Nieto was fatally shot by police Friday. The candles and blankets were set down as part of a vigil Monday evening to remember Nieto and seek justice for the 28-year-old who grew up nearby on Cortland Avenue.

“Alejandro Nieto was murdered by the San Francisco Police Department,” charged Benjamin Bac Sierra, a spokesman for the family, in a news conference before the vigil. Sierra called for justice and a thorough investigation as Nieto’s father, Refugio, stood alongside the family, their lawyer and friends.

What specifically led to Nieto’s death remains unclear.

According to police, the incident began after police got reports of a man in Bernal Heights Park with a gun around 7 p.m. Friday. When officers arrived, Nieto allegedly pointed a weapon at them, prompting multiple officers to fire their guns. Nieto was hit and pronounced dead at the scene.

It is unclear what kind of weapon police saw. Police reported that he pulled a gun, and that one was found beside him. Nieto is said to have carried a Taser for work — and allegedly used a Taser on a man earlier this month, according to a restraining order against him.

Two temporary restraining orders against Nieto were filed last week by an estranged friend and her husband, according to court documents.

On March 5, Nieto got into his friend’s car without her permission as she was waiting to pick up her son, according to records. When her husband arrived, Nieto got out of the car and started yelling at him. Nieto then used a Taser device on the man, according to the request for the order, which was granted March 21.

“I was scared of what he might do to my son,” the woman wrote. “I don’t want them to be in the middle of violence ... That day Alejandro scared me and I fear for my children.”

Sierra, who teaches at City College of San Francisco and grew up on the same street as Nieto, said the restraining order and the alleged incident is just one side of the story but stems from passions over a woman. Still, he added, that incident has no bearing on the circumstances surrounding Nieto’s death.

“Alejandro was a dear friend of mine,” said Sierra, who added that he was a “positive, outgoing … peaceful young man.”

Nieto was studying to become a probation officer and was a full-time security guard who carried a Taser for his job at El Toro nightclub on San Bruno Avenue, Sierra said.

Carlos Gonzalez, a deputy probation officer for The City, said he got Nieto an internship through the juvenile probation department, which he completed in the fall. With that training, Nieto would know better than to aim a weapon at police, Gonzalez claimed.

“It just doesn’t add up,” he said.

Nieto’s family found out about his death Saturday when two police investigators came to their house and told them he had been killed after pointing a gun at police, said Nieto’s uncle, Juan Rodriguez.

A community meeting about the shooting with Police Chief Greg Suhr will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Leonard Flynn Elementary School at 3125 Cesar Chavez St.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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