Facts remain fuzzy in fatal police shooting of immigrant in Mission 

click to enlarge Frank Lara of the ANSWER Coalition speaks to those gathered outside a town hall meeting over the death of Amilcar Perez-Lopez, who was shot by police. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Frank Lara of the ANSWER Coalition speaks to those gathered outside a town hall meeting over the death of Amilcar Perez-Lopez, who was shot by police.

Neighbors and colleagues said the man shot and killed by police in the Mission on Thursday was a 21-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who lived on the same block where his life ended.

Community members turned out in mass for a police town hall meeting Monday evening at Cesar Chavez Elementary School to support the life of Amilcar Perez-Lopez, who police said was fatally shot by two plainclothes officers after they responded to a report of an alleged knife-wielding thief.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said the suspect in the incident was a 21-year-old Latino man and a resident of the Mission, but he could not disclose the suspect's identity until his family is contacted.

Suhr said police were called regarding a report of a man with a 12-inch blade chasing someone at 24th and Folsom streets Thursday evening. Two plainclothes officers wearing identification badges arrived to find a victim with a bicycle and suspect on opposite sides of a parked car.

Suhr said the officers told the suspect to drop the knife several times before he allegedly slashed at an officer, causing him to jump back. Both officers again instructed the suspect to drop the weapon before they fired six shots at the man when he again lunged at them, the chief said.

The bicyclist involved later told police he was walking on Folsom Street when he was approached by the suspect, who wanted to buy his bicycle. After he refused, the suspect had allegedly charged at him with a knife raised overhead. Colleagues say he did not speak English.

"It's not entirely clear to me what the facts are," said Supervisor David Campos, in attendance at the town hall meeting of several hundred people.

Campos said that he respects the account of police, but called for an independent investigation to look into the "different version of events that people who have known this individual have put forward."

After he heard the gunshots that ended the life of Perez-Lopez, neighbor Bill Simpich collected witness accounts from other residents and compiled a statement on behalf of the community.

Simpich said in the statement that Perez-Lopez had become involved in an altercation with a neighborhood bicyclist — an acquaintance — the night of the incident.

The bicyclist, whom Simpich said knew that Perez-Lopez and his housemates were facing eviction at the end of March, had prevented Perez-Lopez from entering his own home on the basis that he "didn't live there."

Disputing claims that Perez-Lopez attempted to steal the man's bicycle, Simpich said the bicyclist reportedly took Perez-Lopez's cellphone before the incident poured onto the street. However, a cellphone was found on Perez-Lopez's body, police said.

That is when the officers followed Perez-Lopez down the street in a car, Simpich said.

The statement did not deny that Perez-Lopez wielded a knife.

Kevin Born, Perez-Lopez's boss at Ashbury Construction, said his employees were in disbelief that Perez-Lopez would commit the crime police alleged.

Co-worker Eduardo Roman described him as a humble, hard-working man who came to the U.S. two years ago to improve his life.

"He wanted to buy presents in December for his little brothers to send back to Guatemala," Roman said. "He was just working to give his family a livelihood."

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