Chief withholds details on police shooting

Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin said Wednesday night he was waiting on the results of a crime scene reconstruction before releasing further information about a police shooting that led to the resignation of former Police Chief Greg Suhr last month.

Appearing at his first Police Commission meeting since his appointment, Chaplin came under almost immediate fire from some community members during public comment for an apparent decision to drop a longstanding department policy to hold public meetings in the wake of police shootings.

The department has released no new information since the May 19 fatal shooting of 29-year-old Jessica Williams in the Bayview District, other than the name of the officer involved, Sgt. Justin Erb.

The shooting, the department’s third in six months, led to Suhr’s resignation and Chaplin’s abrupt appointment later that same day.

Williams was shot in a stolen car after she allegedly attempted to evade police. Suhr said at the scene of the shooting that a witness had described some “back and forth” movement of the vehicle before a shot was fired, but the exact circumstances remain unclear.

Chaplin today said that the shooting remains under investigation by homicide, internal affairs and the district attorney’s office, and that he is waiting for the results of a crime scene reconstruction. He said the decision to hold off on releasing further information was in response to public feedback.

Chaplin said:

“One of the criticisms was about putting out too much information, and people feeling like it was slanted toward the officer. … So right now I’m trying to just put out the facts that we absolutely have.”

Suhr was dogged by protesters calling for his resignation for months following the December police shooting of Mario Woods in the Bayview District. Those same activists greeted Chaplin warily at the commission meeting tonight, with Ilyich Sato, a participant in a recent hunger strike aimed at winning Suhr’s removal, urging him to not just reform the department, but transform it:

“My new slogan is going to be ‘Make it happen, Chaplin,’ because we’re gonna be on your helmet.”

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said a commission subcommittee has already met to start the search for Suhr’s permanent replacement.

The search will solicit applications from both national and internal candidates as the city considers what qualities it is looking for in a new police chief, Loftus said.

Loftus said of the search:

“Its critical that we hear from as many voices from across The City. … We’ll announce plans for that process in coming weeks and provide regular updates.”

The announcement drew objections from Commissioner Petra DeJesus, who noted that she had not been informed of the subcommittee’s formation before the meeting.

The commission was scheduled to discuss body cameras and use of force policies Wednesday evening.