Medical Examiner IDs Woman Shot and Killed by S.F. Police

San Francisco police investigators at scene of Thursday's officer-involved shooting in the Bayview District.

San Francisco police investigators at scene of Thursday's officer-involved shooting in the Bayview District. (CBS San Francisco via Twitter)

Update 8:27 p.m. Friday, May 20:

The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the woman shot and killed by a city police officer Thursday as Bay Area resident Jessica Williams, 29.

An autopsy has been conducted, but further details of Williams’ cause of death were not released, pending the completion of a final report, according to the office.

Former San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned shortly after Thursday’s shooting. Interim Chief Toney Chaplin said Friday that he would hold a public meeting in the Bayview next week and provide updates on investigations into the shooting. The name of officers involved in the incident have not been released, but Chaplin said their identities would also likely be made public next week, per department protocol.

Original Post, Updated 4:12 p.m. Thursday, May 19:

San Francisco police officers shot and killed a woman they suspected of car theft Thursday morning, the department’s eighth fatal officer-involved shooting since the beginning of 2015.

Officer Albie Esparza told reporters the shooting occurred just before 10 a.m. near the intersection of Elmira Street and Shafter Avenue in the city’s Bayview neighborhood.

Police Chief Greg Suhr confirmed that the shooting victim, whom he described as a 27-year-old female, died after being transported to San Francisco General Hospital.

Suhr said the shooting occurred after a confrontation between the suspect, who was in a car, and two officers who were on patrol in the industrial neighborhood looking for stolen cars. He said investigators had spoken to a single witness who saw the incident from above. The involved officers have not yet given statements.

Suhr said the woman fled from officers when they tried to detain her, driving about 100 feet before colliding with another vehicle.

The unidentified witness, according to Suhr, saw the suspected stolen car “going from forward to reverse,” as officers “were moving about.”

Esparza said officers were attempting to pull the woman from the car as it was moving.

“At some point in this engagement, one officer, a sergeant, fired one shot, striking the suspect,” Suhr said.

Police didn’t immediately know whether the woman was armed when she was shot.

Here’s how the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes the sequence of events that led to the unidentified woman’s death:

Two officers attempted to detain the woman after spotting the stolen car, said Police Chief Greg Suhr. She tried to drive away before the officers could talk to her, but only got 100 feet before crashing into a parked truck. While she was trying to dislodge the vehicle and not complying with police orders, one of the two officers, a Bayview station sergeant, fired one shot, striking her.

There was no immediate indication that she was driving at the officers.

Proposed changes to SFPD use of force policies include a ban on firing at a moving vehicle “unless the operator or occupant poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the public or an officer by means other than the vehicle.” It’s one of many proposed changes that have been criticized by the union representing SFPD officers.

San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran declined to comment on the shooting today, saying in a written statement that he will comment after he learns more details about the incident.

The woman who died Thursday was black. The San Francisco Police Department’s seven other fatal shootings since Jan. 1, 2015, include two white, one black and four Latino victims:

An employee at a nearby business said he provided investigators with surveillance video of the incident. He declined to provide an additional copy, saying for now the business prefers to work solely with law enforcement.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a written statement that while details are currently scarce, he is “deeply disturbed” by what’s been released so far.

“She was entitled to due process and, above all, she was entitled to her life,” Adachi said, while reiterating his call for the state Attorney General’s Office to launch a civil rights investigation of the Police Department.

Federal authorities with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are currently conducting a non-binding review of SFPD policies, launched in February and in response to the Dec. 2 fatal shooting of Mario Woods in the Bayview.

Suhr said federal authorities were at the scene of Thursday morning’s shooting.

“They were in the neighborhood,” Suhr said of U.S. Department of Justice officials. “They have full access to everything right now.”

SFPD’s latest fatal shooting is fueling speculation that Mayor Ed Lee is considering firing Suhr. He addressed the shooting during an unrelated event this morning, according to the Chronicle.

emilytgreen on Twitter

“We r going to have to ask a lot of questions, including that one.” @mayoredlee Thursday on whether he will replace police chief Greg Suhr

The Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Activists calling for Suhr’s removal plan a rally at City Hall this evening, starting at 5 p.m.

  • I am part of the SFPD – CIT Mental Health Working Group, the group that trains SFPD officers in crisis de-escalation. We had a meeting scheduled with Police Chief Greg Suhr this afternoon, a meeting now postponed. We planned to talk about how to improve their CIT (Crisis Intervention Teams) program and how to better implement its team aspect.

    We even planned to propose the creation of a critical incidents review group, a task force to enable members of our mental health working group to review critical incidents involving mental health crisis encounters and learn from them – to create better responses and tactics.

    CIT is a work in progress. We aspire to much but only partially deliver on our promise. Incidents like the tragic shooting today, however, set us back.

    Stepping back, however, to examine the bigger picture of SFPD responses to people suffering mental health crisis, including substance abuse, every month there are on average three hundred and sixty – that is 360 mental health detentions. That is more than four thousand per year.

    In these incidents, individuals assessed by police as a threat to themselves or others are taken into custody by being placed into handcuffs and transported to Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). This is considered a mental health detention under the police code 5150. Even though it is not voluntary, it is not an arrest as no charges are filled. The focus is on getting the person treatment.

    These yearly four thousand plus 5150 mental health detentions occur without anybody getting hurt or even incurring a criminal case.

    While even one death is one too many, one way too many, it is still an extremely rare occurrence given the thousands of people in crisis that are transported each year, transported involuntarily, to psychiatric services, and transported without harm.

    This tragedy is truly a setback in many ways – for the victim, her family and friends, for the community, for community–police relations, for our CIT training program and for the city as a whole.

    We have much work ahead.

    David Elliott Lewis, Ph.D.
    ____________________________________
    SFPD Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training Mental Health Working Group.
    Mental Health Board of the City and County of San Francisco.
    National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), SF Board of Directors.

  • Concerned

    Chief Greg Shur’s fellow officers basically got him removed, because they refuse to change the way they treat citizens, even when the SFPD was under review. This event could have gone in a better direction because that car was wedged and she was trapped where could she go? What can you expect from a Chief who leads by example states regarding Woods our policy shoot once in head twice in body. X 5 = 25 shots by 5 cops. This woman was running because of fear ending up dead like recent others, little did she know her faith.

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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.

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Author

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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