San Francisco police Tuesday said they are searching for additional suspects who may be connected to a police shooting in the Castro District that left one officer and one suspect with critical injuries.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday evening, police said investigators have not yet been able to interview the officer injured in the Nov. 1 shooting, a nine-year veteran who remains hospitalized, and are still working to identify witnesses who were seen in the area.
The incident began shortly after midnight Wednesday, when a citizen flagged down two uniformed officers walking a Halloween foot beat in the area of 18th and Diamond streets, according to police.
The resident pointed out a suspicious vehicle parked in front of 77 Diamond Street with one person inside, who he thought may been breaking into the vehicle, Capt. Valerie Matthews, head of the department’s major crimes division, said.
When the officers approached the vehicle, the officer closest to the car ordered the man, later identified as 32-year-old Hayward resident Sesar Valadez, to get out.
Valadez then allegedly pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and began shooting at that officer, striking him multiple times, before turning to fire at the second officer, Matthews said.
The second officer fired back, striking the suspect. In all, the officer and the suspect are thought to have each fired 16 rounds, and the suspect appears to have emptied his gun, police said. Both weapons have been recovered.
The vehicle Valadez was found in had been reported stolen out of Hayward, police said.
The suspect and injured officer were both taken to the hospital with critical injuries and remain there as of Tuesday evening.
Matthews said police are searching for at least two individuals thought to have been with the suspect and who fled the area after the shooting.
Investigators are also trying to determine if those individuals are the same ones responsible for the armed carjacking of a taxi that occurred about a block away shortly after the shooting. That vehicle was abandoned a short distance away at 18th and Oakwood streets near Dolores Park.
Department policy generally calls for the release of body-worn camera footage in officer-involved shootings, and police tonight said that one of the officers, the one who fired his weapon, did activate his body camera and capture a portion of the incident.
However Chief William Scott said that footage would not be released at this time:
“In this case we have determined that there are key witnesses who have not yet been interviewed including the involved officer and the release of body worn footage at this juncture will jeopardize the investigation so we will not be releasing it tonight.”
Police also typically release the name of the involved officer within 10 days of a shooting, but Scott said that officer’s name would be withheld while investigators worked to determine if it’s release would pose a threat to his safety:
“There are unanswered questions in this case as to motive and who was involved. … Due to not having these questions answered we have not been able to get a full assessment of the safety of the officers at risk.”
The shooting rattled Castro District residents, a number of whom lined up at this evening’s town hall meeting to thank police and to call for an increased police presence in the neighborhood. Scott pointed to a recent increase in foot patrols, implemented in August, while Supervisor Jeff Sheehy urged residents to support funding for more officers.
Sheehy said the department is currently working to reach a staffing level of 1,971 officers dictated by a mid-1990s ballot measure, but argued that that target should be increased:
“At that time the community thought that was the appropriate number officers but the city has grown dramatically since then, it’s become much more complex, and some of the new tactics that the department is deploying to prevent officer-involved shooting, time and distance, require more officers, so for all these reasons I think that number is way too low.”
Valadez was formally booked into jail on Friday but remains in the hospital. He was arrested on suspicion of numerous charges that include two counts of attempted murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and driving a stolen vehicle.