Police fatally shot SF man after mistaking Taser for gun 

Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by police Friday night after being asked to show his hands but instead drawing a Taser that was mistaken for a gun, Police Chief Greg Suhr told a volatile crowd Tuesday night.

“He did not have a gun, he had a Taser just like this,” said Suhr, pointing to a photo of a black-and-yellow Taser beside him in a packed hall at Leonard Flynn Elementary School.

Amid shouts of “I hope you die, [cops]” from the crowd, Suhr gave a quick but detailed retelling of Nieto’s death, explaining first that the 28-year-old was not legally allowed to own a gun because of mental health issues.

Suhr began by reading the log of the 911 caller reporting a man with a black handgun on his hip in Bernal Heights Park at 7:11 p.m. Friday.

Soon afterward, police arrived and, from a distance of about 75 feet, located Nieto, a San Francisco resident.

“They asked him to show his hands,” Suhr said. Instead, Nieto told police to show their hands and pointed at them. When officers saw a red laser light emanating from what was later identified as a Taser, Suhr said, they thought a gun was pointing at them and opened fire in “defense of their own lives.”

When some in the crowd wondered aloud why Nieto had reportedly been hit 14 times, Suhr responded by saying, “We do not know at this point in time how many times Mr. Nieto was hit.”

At one point, Suhr held up a Taser like Nieto’s for the crowd to see.

“I want to apologize and say I’m sorry for the loss of your son,” Suhr told Nieto’s father, Refugio, who sat in the front row of the hall.

What followed was a long line of mostly angry speakers, questioning police actions.

Suzanne Cortez questioned how police would not know a Taser when they saw one.

Benjamin Bac Sierra, a spokesman and friend of the Nieto family, asked Suhr a series of questions about the incident, including why police failed to see that Nieto had a Taser and why was there not a cease-fire called.

While the Office of Citizen Complaints, which investigates police involved shootings, was at the scene of the crime after the incident, it cannot begin an investigation until a complaint has been filed, OCC Executive Director Joyce Hicks said. No complaint has been filed.

The case is still under investigation by homicide detectives and the Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to issue a cause of death.

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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