Five San Francisco police officers who are believed to have opened fire on 26-year-old Mario Woods after an alleged stabbing in the Bayview have been placed on administrative leave as the investigation into the shooting continues.
Woods, a San Francisco resident, was suspected in a stabbing reported nearby on Wednesday afternoon. Police said Woods moved toward an officer while armed with a knife, prompting the officers to open fire.
A video of the shooting, apparently from a bystander aboard a San Francisco Municipal Railway vehicle, was posted to Instagram and has gone viral on social media.
The video appears to show a man limping on the sidewalk and surrounded by officers. Someone off-screen urges the man to “just drop it,” then seconds later a number of shots ring out.
Police said they have viewed the cellphone video and will continue to search the area for more video evidence.
It’s unclear whether the five officers who were placed on administrative assignment have viewed the video posted to Instagram, said Lt. Robert Yick with the Police Department’s internal affairs division.
Yick said the officers were not interviewed Wednesday but were in the process of being interviewed by investigators Thursday.
In 2009, when Woods was 19, he had been previously included in a gang injunction requested by the city attorney’s office. A San Francisco Superior Court judge added him and five other men to one of The City’s civil gang injunctions targeting a Hunters Point criminal street gang known as the Oakdale Mob, according to the city attorney’s office.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in 2009 that Woods and the other men “have engaged in an alarming pattern of gang violence and criminal conduct in a short span of time, and their addition to the existing injunction is clearly warranted.”
The city attorney’s office said in a statement in 2009 that Woods was “an active member of Oakdale Mob whose gang related activities include armed robbery and attempted armed robbery; shooting incidents; weapons possession offenses; and driving a stolen car.” Woods was also allegedly involved in an automobile injury accident while fleeing from police, according to the city attorney’s office.
The injunctions prohibit gang members from associating together in certain “safety zones” and police said they have been helpful in discouraging gang activity. However, the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics have opposed them over civil liberties, racial profiling and due process concerns.
Wednesday’s incident began at 3:49 p.m. Wednesday when the stabbing victim, also a San Francisco resident, was dropped off at San Francisco General Hospital with a stab wound to his shoulder, police said.
The victim, who is expected to survive, told police he was stabbed in the 6600 block of Third Street near Le Conte Avenue and gave authorities a description of the suspect.
Officers responded to the scene and were flagged down by a witness who also gave a description of the suspect. At 4:34 p.m., an officer spotted someone who matched the suspect description and was armed with a knife, according to police.
Several officers responded and gave numerous orders for Woods to drop the knife. When he refused, the officers used a less-lethal firearm known as a bean bag gun to try to subdue him but it had no apparent effect, so they tried to use pepper spray on him as well, police said.
When that also failed to subdue him, officers tried to use a higher-powered bean bag weapon, which caused Woods to drop to one knee, but did not cause him to drop the knife, police said.
Woods then tried to walk onto Keith Street toward Fitzgerald Avenue and an officer moved onto the sidewalk to stop him from fleeing, according to police.
Police said Woods moved toward that officer while still armed with the knife, prompting the five officers to fire their handguns at him.
Woods was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was being conducted Thursday to document the official cause of Woods’ death. Personnel at the medical examiner’s office have not yet released how many bullets entered Woods’ body.
Yick said the Police Department’s homicide division will decide when to release the names of the officers involved in the shooting. He said the officers’ mental health and well-being will be evaluated if and when they return to their regular duties.
San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said a town hall meeting is being planned in the coming days.
Esparza said information disclosed at the meeting may include how many projectiles were deployed, how many lethal rounds were fired, how many officers deployed pepper spray and at what distances.
San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview District, issued a statement Thursday urging members of the public “to honor the life of Mr. Mario Woods through peaceful and nonviolent gatherings in remembrance of his life.” Cohen encouraged members of the public to attend the town hall meeting and called on those investigating the shooting to do so “transparently, thoroughly and quickly.”
The officer-involved shooting is being investigated by the department’s homicide division, internal affairs division, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the medical examiner’s office and the city’s Office of Citizen Complaints.
Cohen said that her “heart aches for the family that has lost a loved one” and that she is deeply saddened by Woods’ death.