About 500 people marched Saturday from San Francisco's Mission District to Bernal Heights Park, where 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by police officers a week before. Nieto's supporters don't believe the Buddhist and hopeful probation officer pointed a Taser stun gun at police, who mistook the weapon for a hand gun, according to SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. (Alex Emslie/KQED)
About 500 people marched from the Mission District to Bernal Heights Park, where Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by police officers. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

KQED has obtained San Francisco Police Department dispatch audio that details officers’ response to a call about a man with a holstered weapon at Bernal Heights Park and the aftermath of the fatal officer-involved shooting of 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto.

The March 21 shooting has stirred heated controversy between residents of central San Francisco’s Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods and the police department. Police Chief Greg Suhr said Nieto, who carried a Taser for his job as a security guard, pointed the weapon at responding officers and “tracked” them with a laser sight. He said officers, who were 75 feet from Nieto when they fired, thought the pistol-shaped, brightly colored Taser was a handgun.

But Mission and Bernal Heights residents who knew Nieto say it’s unbelievable for him to have pointed the weapon at officers. Nieto often volunteered with neighborhood youth. He was a City College of San Francisco criminal justice student and aspiring juvenile probation officer who had interned with the city’s probation department.

Listen to the Audio of Police Officers Responding to the Incident

The audio surrounding the March 21 incident was obtained from Broadcastify.com, which maintains an archive of San Francisco Police Department radio dispatch.

The audio mostly matches up with Suhr’s March 25 description of the calls and response. But it also confirms the assertions of Nieto’s family and friends that he wasn’t acting erratically before he was shot.

The radio chatter started about 7:11 p.m. on March 21. Dispatch relays a call to Ingleside Station police, describing a man “in bright red jacket, 6’1, 200 pounds, black pants, has a gun on his hip.”

Police said after the incident that Nieto never had a gun, but that the caller might have mistaken his hip-holstered Taser for a handgun.

About one minute, 15 seconds later, more information comes over the radio.

“He’s got a gun at his hip and is pacing back and forth on the north side of the park near a chain-link fence.”

Another minute passes and a police officer asks for an update on the call about a person with a gun in Bernal Heights.

“He’s eating chips or sunflower seeds,” dispatch responds, apparently relaying information from the person who called police.

At about 7:17 p.m., an officer spots someone:

“Hey there’s a guy in a red shirt way up the hill walking toward you guys.”

Then another officer responds, “I got a guy right here.”

And 25 seconds later, an officer shouts, “Shots fired! Shots fired!” Another two officers also tell dispatch that shots have been fired, and one announces an emergency “code 33.”

More police officers radio that they are responding to an incident that quickly changed from a code 221 (person with gun) to 217 (shooting).

Police closed off the north side of Bernal Heights Park and cleared the way for an ambulance. They also transport two witnesses, one who they refer to as the “original 909” (code for a citizen requesting interview) to Ingleside Station and begin canvassing the park for other people who may have seen the shooting. Police are repeatedly requested to switch to a different radio channel to discuss the shooting, so this audio may not include all of the chatter about the incident.

The dispatch audio did not capture the sounds of the shooting, but Nieto’s friend, Ben Bac Sierra, said he obtained audio of what sounds like multiple gunshots from a nearby private security camera. Nieto was pronounced dead that evening.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, whose office is representing Nieto’s parents in a claim against the city, said an independent viewing of Nieto’s body showed at least 10 gunshot wounds, including one to Nieto’s forehead. He said they had not yet obtained the dispatch tapes.

Scanner Audio From Police-Involved Shooting in Bernal Heights 26 October,2014Alex Emslie

  • PigStateNews

    At least 1039 people have been killed by U.S. police since May 1, 2013. More than several times that number have been shot and injured.

    • chunt

      Who cares? Why do you post the same comment on every site? The # is irrelevant. The circumstances of each incident is what’s important. What about pacing around at the park and pulling a taser on armed officers not sound like erratic behavior?

      • speak the truth?

        Thats a proven lie “Mr. Chunt” about pacing and pulling a taser on armed officers and your also right as to the circumstances surrounding each incident are different but always ending in minority killings by police officers….but you must be defending your corrupt officer buddies right?

        • nsfw

          Proven? Can I get a link to discredit what we’ve heard?

          • why aren’t you asking for a link to show actual EVIDENCE that nieto was committing a crime? he wasn’t, so you’ll never get that evidence . but hey, no worries … only a latin kid, so, y’know, no big loss, right?

            people like you, who come to defend killer cops, are worse than the killer cops

        • chunt

          First off, I’m not a Mr. Secondly, Have you ever considered the fact that these particular minorities were more violent. I knew from the time I was 9 years old that something was different when the first minorities were bused into the school I attended. i had never seen such abusive behavior in my life. No one had stolen from before then, no one had deliberately destroyed property that belonged to others, no one had pushed me down before on the playground when my back turned. I was too young to have an agenda back then. But things never got better. i know there are minorities that you couldn’t pay to hurt anybody , but every time there was a violent fight at schools there were any caucasians involved. The first instance of having a weapon brought to school for a fight was between minorities. So, up until this point i could see no evidence to make me feel differently. Violence in certain neighborhoods is more prevalent than the poorest white neighborhoods. The only unnatural deaths of whites here in the last few years was auto accidents and pedestrian victims. This is all i know factually here in my city. So by your thinking is i have to lump every death at the hands of a minority is a crime? Sorry, but that’s wrong. Should I demand punishment of every minority that causes a death of another human? That would be racist, inflammatory and deceitful. So, no i won’t lump all deaths by law enforcement together as criminal acts just like I won’t lump all deaths at the hand of any minority into criminal acts. So you keep your opinion and make yourself feel all powerful, but I choose to keep mine because like i said there are good honest minorities and that would only react violently to protest themselves and their families.

  • Andrew Kurdziel

    Fu%king PIGS that commit MURDER and get away with it need to be hunted down and bring about JUSTICE.

  • Andrew *

    How many of the 1039 people killed since May of last year were in the act of commiting a crime? I would bet that the majority of the 1039 people were not victims but people in the act of doing something illegal. You did not mention the 136 officers killed in the line of duty killed since Jan 2013. Speak the truth, painting all officers as corrupt discredits any claim you make as your prejudice against police is obvious. There are bad officers just as there are bad people in any field. (Although I don’t think I’ve ever met a good criminal). I believe most officers join the force to try and make a difference in society for the better. Respect the laws of the land and you will have no problems.
    I grew up in Los Angeles and have had a polce shotgun in my face for no reason other than I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But guess what I am here to talk about it. Just did what the officers said, didn’t agrue and all was fine. Be smart people.

    • regardless, they did not get their day in court, did they? no . cops appoint themselves judge, jury, and executioner on a daily basis, and idiots defend them

  • This is a huge tragedy. When the victim, 28 year-old Alejandro Nieto pointed his Taser at the police, at 75 feet away, up on the hill with a setting sun behind Alejandro’s back, all the police saw was what looked like a gun and with a red laser light targeting device shining on them.

    This laser was an automatically activated sighting device on Alejandro’s Taser. As firearms can also be fitted with lasers to improve their aim, the police had genuine reason to believe they were about be shot. They responded out of self preservation.
    Somehow, these facts do not fit with the preferred narrative based on a assumption of police aggression. Whenever there is an officer involved shooting, many assume the police are always at fault.

    This is a belief born out of anger but also out of police missteps in the past. Just because there have been wrongful shootings doesn’t mean this one was.

    I believe any police officer in this situation would have tragically responded in the same way. At the moment when you think you are about to be shot, you can and should do everything to defend your life.

    Now with 20/20 hindsight we know that the police were never in danger. These police officers, however, had no way to know that when they had to make a split second life and death decision.

    Continuing to vent, condemn and accuse helps no one. We need healing and understanding.
    P.S. My information about what happened comes from interviewing a member of Nieto’s family, a senior police commander and also publically available news reports.



Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a criminal justice reporter at KQED. He covers policing policy, crime and the courts.

He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at City College of San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Alex freelanced for various news outlets including the Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Bay Guardian.

Alex is proud of his work at KQED on a spike in fatal officer-involved shootings in Vallejo, which uncovered that a single officer shot and killed three suspects over the course of five months. Alex's work with a team at KQED on police encounters with people in psychiatric crisis was cited in amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Best Scoop award in 2015 for exposing a series of bigoted text messages swapped by San Francisco police officers. He was honored with 2010 San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and California Newspaper Publishers Association awards for breaking news reporting on the trial following the shooting of Oscar Grant. Email: aemslie@kqed.org. Twitter: @SFNewsReporter.

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