A Police Department review has cleared two San Francisco police officers of any impropriety in last year’s shooting of a wheelchair-using man who was causing a disturbance outside a South of Market city health clinic.
In a March 20 report delivered earlier this month to the Police Commission, the department’s Firearm Discharge Review Board determined that Sgt. Noah Mallinger and Officer Terrance Saw acted within department policy on Jan. 4, 2011, when they shot 55-year-old Randal Dunklin, who was armed with a knife and had stabbed Saw after being hit with pepper spray.
Dunklin suffered from physical and mental illnesses and had been seeking services at the clinic, according to his attorney.
After being asked to leave, Dunklin began throwing pieces of concrete out on the sidewalk and vandalizing city vehicles parked there, police said. When officers arrived and ordered Dunklin to drop the knife, he allegedly refused and began swearing at them while waving the knife in the air.
Officers fired pepper spray at Dunklin, who stabbed Saw in the arm, police said. Officers then hit Dunklin with a bean-bag weapon, and when Dunklin continued to wave the knife around, they shot him multiple times.
Dunklin survived and was prosecuted for attacking the officers, but was acquitted of felony assault by a jury in November. He was convicted of brandishing a knife and vandalism, both misdemeanors.
Dunklin’s attorney argued he had acted in self-defense after being surrounded by plainclothes officers and hit by the pepper spray. The jury convicted him only of misdemeanor vandalism and brandishing a knife.
The shooting, which was captured on video by a passer-by, drew public focus on the Police Department’s policies regarding use of force and response to those with mental illnesses. The department has since begun implementing a new training program for officers.
A brief public summary of the investigation into the shooting noted the Review Board’s discussion “centered on dealings with suspects in wheelchairs and officer safety.”
A suit filed by Dunklin’s attorneys in federal court, claiming excessive force by Mallinger and Saw, as well as inadequate training of police officers by The City, is still pending.