A KQED analysis of an Instagram video showing last week’s fatal police shooting of Mario Woods appears to contradict claims by Police Chief Greg Suhr that officers opened fire only after Woods made a threatening movement.

Woods, reportedly a suspect in a stabbing in the Bayview on Wednesday afternoon, was killed after a confrontation that involved as many as a dozen officers. Five of them opened fire on Woods after failing to subdue him with less-than-lethal beanbag rounds and pepper spray.

During a community meeting in the Bayview neighborhood on Friday night and again on Monday, Suhr said the video showed Woods, whom police say was carrying a knife in his right hand, extend his arm toward one police officer. That movement, Suhr said Friday night as he presented blown-up images of the video, prompted that officer and four others to open fire.

According to the San Francisco Examiner’s account of the meeting, Suhr said: “We were able to enhance one second of the tweeted video… which shows the officer engaging with Mr. Woods and Mr. Woods’ arm with the knife outstretched. The officer fearing for his safety. … He fired in defense of himself and the other four officers fired in defense of that officer.”

After a Monday press conference called to discuss the Police Department’s use of force policy in the wake of the shooting, Suhr reiterated his claims about what the video shows.

“We took what is the eighth second of one of the 15-second YouTube videos, and we showed at the town hall the other day that when you do that it appears when you move it to step photography, that [Woods] does appear to raise his arm up and extend it toward the officer.”

Asked whether that movement happened before or after the first shot was fired, Suhr said, “It appears to be before any shots were fired.”

However, a careful review of the short Instagram video Suhr referred to suggests that officers opened fire a fraction of a second before Woods’ arm moved. In slowed-down versions of the video, the first shot is clearly audible before Woods extends his arm. In addition, in the moment Woods’ arm moves, his body appears to be moving backward, as if recoiling from being struck by a gunshot.

Although KQED’s analysis is based on the same video Suhr used during Friday night’s community meeting, there are potential technical issues with the images and sound that should be kept in mind when viewing it. For instance, there is no guarantee that the audio and video are in perfect synchronization.

Also, we want to emphasize that we are not drawing any conclusions about the shooting itself. For instance, neither of the videos we display in the split screen above depict the events that led to the confrontation and fatal shooting. It appears that in the early seconds of the videos, Woods may be reacting to being struck by shotgun-fired beanbags — but we can’t say for sure.

Rather, our focus is limited to whether Chief Suhr’s account is borne out by the images to which he pointed. We conclude, based on the evidence available to us, that it does not.

  • That was a “Freaking Hot MESS”! I’m disgusted with the San Francisco police department after seeing HIM gunned DOWN!

    • Tom Jefferson

      Oh, so it is fine with you that he stabbed another person before being cornered by the police.

      And you can over look the pepper spray and beanbags (OUCH!) that SFPD deployed FIRST.

      Thugs lives matter to you I guess.

      Next time you are attacked, call a thug.

      • The Weeping Cheeto

        Whether he stabbed someone or not, how does that justify this execution?

        • Tom Jefferson

          He didn’t stab any one else, and I guess that even in teh Bayview, that is good.

      • Nick Saad

        Guess you forgot about the whole “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” concept. Or maybe you don’t think people of color deserve that right. Bottom line, I don’t care if he stabbed someone or not, he didn’t deserve to get executed like that.

        • Tom Jefferson

          You DON”T care if he tried to murder someone else, as long as a cop doesn’t kill him. Ok….

          They tried pepper spray

          They tried beanbags

          They are not allowed tazers

          I wouldn’t LET a K9 bite a skell like that

          What do YOU recommend?

          • LOLGovernment

            Watch the video you naive fool. Police never need to kill anyone
            armed with a 4 inch butter knife. If they would have actually pepper
            sprayed him he would’ve dropped the knife. When people get pepper
            sprayed they drop anything they are holding and rub their eyes.
            Seriously, how do people get to be so dumb? Go get yourself medicated before you spread more of your stupidity around.

          • Tom Jefferson

            OH! I get it!.

            You are denying that he HAD a weapon or that he attacked anyone.

            The Tin Foil Hats are in Aisle 14 next to the KoolAide.

        • Tom Jefferson

          Unn, no Nick.

          He died because he failed to drop his weapon. No loss really given his record,, eh?

      • LOLGovernment

        You’ve just gone full retard.

        • Nick Saad

          Thank you lolgovernment for saying what I was going to tell this guy. Maybe he needs to watch the video where the UK police officers disarm a man holding a butcher knife to his neck. Then he should learn about the word “de-escalation.”


    Where is the stabbing victim? Where is the knife?

  • Wobbly

    “Less than lethal” is a false descriptor. Even the manufacturers acknowledge that bean-bag rounds, rubber bullets, and similar munitions can kill. The correct term, as used by manufacturers, law enforcement, and legal organizations, is “less lethal.” They can kill; they’re just less likely to do so.

  • SiDC

    If he has a knife at his side and is refusing to drop it, then he is
    still a threat. second, doing a story like this is fanning the flames.
    I understand they put in the caveat saying that the video and audio
    isn’t sync, THEN WHY DO THE STORY!!!!! If you can’t be sure that its
    perfectly sync then don’t question the officers. Humans cannot live
    frame by frame, like the matrix.

    • LOLGovernment

      Watch the video you naive fool. Police never need to kill anyone armed with a 4 inch butter knife. If they would have actually pepper sprayed him he would’ve dropped the knife. When people get pepper sprayed they drop anything they are holding and rub their eyes. Seriously, how do people get to be so dumb?

  • The Weeping Cheeto

    American cops are by FAR the worst in the modern world.

  • LOLGovernment

    How is this chief not fired already. 19 shots to stop a guy who was barely moving and probably not going to make it another 10 feet before taking a nap. Anyone this stupid should not be in charge of a police department.


Adam Grossberg

Adam Grossberg is a web video producer at KQED News. Email: agrossberg@kqed.org.


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.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

Twitter: twitter.com/danbrekke
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