Man killed by SF police identified

A 27-year-old man who was fatally shot by a police sergeant after he allegedly took another sergeant’s firearm in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood Thursday afternoon was identified by the medical examiner’s office today.

San Francisco resident Herbert Benitez died Thursday during the officer-involved shooting at the intersection of Eighth and Market streets, according to deputy medical examiner administrator Chris Wirowek.

The death is being investigated as a homicide caused by gunshot wounds to the torso, Wirowek said, adding that a final autopsy report is underway.

The shooting will be investigated by the San Francisco medical examiner’s office as well as police internal affairs and homicide investigators, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Citizen Complaints, police said.

San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr stood at the crime scene Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after the fatal shooting, and said the incident occurred after two senior police sergeants from the Tenderloin Station were flagged down by a worker at a construction site on Eighth Street.

The construction worker pointed out a man throwing glass bottles onto the street, about a block from United Nations Plaza.

Suhr said the construction worker told police he had approached the man, later identified as Benitez, and asked him to stop out of concern that the broken glass would damage the tires on construction vehicles, but that Benitez allegedly became hostile toward the worker and challenged him to call police.

At 12:06 p.m. one of the sergeants approached Benitez and attempted to take him into custody, but as he tried to handcuff Benitez a violent struggle ensued, according to police.

Suhr said the sergeant was on the ground struggling with Benitez and called out “He’s getting my gun,” and then saw his own gun pointing at him and yelled, “He’s got my gun. Shoot him.” His partner then fired two shots, striking the suspect.

The suspect fell to the sidewalk, along with the gun he allegedly took from the officer on the ground, according to Suhr.

Police said the officers called for an ambulance and began first aid before paramedics arrived, but Benitez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Suhr said the sergeants were transported to a hospital and are both in stable condition. One suffered injuries to his face and knee, while the other sergeant suffered only facial injuries.

Coleogne Johnson, 47, of Pinole, said he was outside the Orpheum Theatre eating his lunch when he heard two pops and then saw a swarm of officers arrive at the intersection of Eighth and Market streets. He said he didn’t see what happened though.

San Francisco Municipal Railway bus and streetcar routes that use Market Street were rerouted around the scene, while pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic came to a standstill as police investigated the shooting.

Police have tentatively scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for Monday.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call police at (415) 553-1145, or the Anonymous Tip Line at (415) 575-4444 to Text-a-Tip to TIP411 and start the message with SFPD.