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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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UncategorizedNieto family lawsuit contradicts SFPD version of shooting

Nieto family lawsuit contradicts SFPD version of shooting

Shot by the police -- but was he really aiming a weapon and disobeying them?
Shot by the police — but was he really aiming a weapon and disobeying them?

By Tim Redmond

AUGUST 22, 2014 — The family of Alex Nieto filed suit in federal court today, alleging that the version of the story of his killing peddled by Police Chief Greg Suhr is inaccurate and that at no point did Nieto draw his taser and aim it at officers.

The narrative presented in the lawsuit is backed up, attorney John Burris says, by eyewitnesses found by his office. “In the aftermath of the incident, the City and County of San Francisco and the involved officers claimed Alex defied Officers’ orders and pointed a taser at them. The Officers claimed they mistook the taser for a handgun, causing them to fear for their lives and as a result shot and killed him. After an independent investigation led by the community and the Law Offices of John L. Burris, witnesses along with physical evidence was uncovered which contradicts CCSF’s version of the events,” the lawsuit states.

In a community meeting after the shooting, Suhr said that Nieto had brandished his taser and aimed it at officers. Even after the first shots, the chief said, Nieto kept the weapon – which emits a red laser dot, similar to some handguns – pointed at the police.

Early reports also stated that Nieto was acting erratically.

However, the suit offers a very different story.

Nieto, according to the suit, left his home in the evening of March 21, 2014 and bought a burrito for dinner. He was wearing a taser that he used in his job as a security guard. He took his meal up the Bernal Hill and sat in a bench in the park.

“Witnesses recount Mr. Nieta at the park peacefully sitting alone on the bench enjoying his burrito,” the suit states. “A yet to be identified person called 911 and erroneously reported Mr. Nieto as having a black gun on his hip. The caller mistook the black and yellow taser Mr. Nieto lawfully carried … for a gun. However, the caller did not claim Mr. Nieto was bothering anyone or making any type of threatening gestures with the reported “gun.”

Several SFPD officers responded to the call. Officer Albie Esparza has confirmed to me that they drove their cars onto the paved surface that’s part of the park and that they were able to take cover behind those cars.

“One of the officers behind the patrol car called out and ordered Mr. Nieto to “stop,” the suit states. “Within seconds a quick volley of shots were fired at Mr. Nieto.

The first volley was short, followed by a pause and a second volley. You can listen to the audio of those shots here.

The critical part of the narrative: Did Nieto threaten or point his weapon, which officers could have mistaken for a gun, in the direction of police? Were they able to take cover behind their cars? If he was acting erratically, should they have held fire and engaged in the procedures developed for dealing with mentally-ill people?

According to the lawsuit, Nieto was never showing any signs of unusual behavior.

“In the aftermath of the incident, SFPD claims Mr. Nieto refused to comply with officers’ requests for him to show them his hands and instead pointed the taser at them, challenged their authority forcing the officers to shoot him. However, the ear and eye witnesses’ revelations undermine SFPD’s claims.”

The witnesses, Burris alleges, “did not her Mr. Nieto threaten anyone or see him attempt to grab or point any object at the officers prior to being shot.

Burris has not named the witnesses. He confirmed to the Bay Guardian that those witnesses did not see him point his weapon or threaten the police.

SFPD has refused to identify the officers involved.

But at some point, as this moves toward a trial, all that information will have to come out.

Bernal Hill is a popular place, and in the early evening, there are typically dozens of people strolling, walking their dogs, and enjoying the view. Police quickly closed off the road and jogging area where Nieto was sitting, or maybe standing, but there are lots of places on the hillside above where people could see what was going on.

I’m actually surprised nobody got cell-phone camera footage. But I’m not surprised that there may be eyewitnesses other than the police officers.

If Burris has credible, sworn witnesses who contradict what the police said, the evidence could be explosive – which would give the city every reason to reach a quick settlement.

The longer the litigation goes on, the more likely the details will all become public – which can only be good.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Thank you so much for referring to me as “fringe.” I know you meant the term as a pejorative, but that’s not how I take it. Being referred to as fringe is quite a compliment. The forefathers of the United States were fringe and it’s much better to be fringe than a CIA bootlicker or one of the corporatist “mainstream” sheeple. The article about the CIA trolls speaks for itself.

  2. I take it that this is an example of the “points, facts and arguments” you would like other commenters to “refute”? It actually looks a lot to me like what you accuse others of indulging in: “personal attacks and speculations”. You have no concrete basis for judging that this person’s claims are a “cheap stunt”; you just feel like they probably are.

    I can’t reply to your other comment below because the website won’t allow more than 5 levels of comments, so I’ll say it here: if you think what I said about your comments was “ad hominem” then you don’t know what that term means. I did not say that your opinion is without value because you’re a conservative with very predictable opinions and a general contempt for all the journalists whose work you comment on. I do believe the latter is true, and I don’t think I need to explain why to anyone who has read more than a fraction of your many, many, many similar comments; hence my Muppet joke, which I don’t expect you to find funny. But the reason I think your opinion here is without value is that you haven’t bothered to back it up; there are no facts and arguments there, all that you’ve established is that your first impulse in cases like this is to trust the police, and we know that already. (By the way, using phrases like “a legitimate shoot” makes you sound like either a police officer who thinks he’s talking to other police officers, or a tough guy who wants to sound like a police officer; no one else talks like that.)

    I don’t agree with the “CIA troll” nonsense, of course. I know plenty of people who are happy to rant on the Internet for free. But the fact that you’re so willing to lump together a fringe type of response like Dan’s with comments like mine and Michael’s and see no difference between them, other than “people don’t like me and aren’t debating me in a serious enough manner,” doesn’t speak well of your own seriousness.

  3. Interesting that neither Michael, Eli or you can come up with a single substantive refutation of any of the points, facts and arguments I made. But rather in each case, you resort to personal attacks and speculations, seemingly admitting that your personal attacks are a substitute for debate and discovery.

    I’d be willing to bet that Tim much prefers a contradictory viewpoint, clearly expressed and cogently argued, to a barrage of snide, spiteful ad hominems with no material content.

    SF progressives are supposed to be tolerant and respectful of diversity, but the reality is that they viciously turn on anyone who isn’t brainwashed by their propaganda machine.

    CIA trolls? LOL.

  4. Agreed. I suspect Sam and Dave are CIA trolls (see link below). Sam’s comment on August 22, 2014 at 6:29 pm is signature, cookie-cutter trademark troll. Trolls don’t seem to have the ability to come up with anything original. They’ve been using the same libertarian/right-wing “script” for years.

    Sam (who was “John” on Mission Local) has been THE main resident “Guest,” troll on the Bay Guardian’s site for years. I notice that Mission Local has finally gotten fed up with John/Sam and other trolls by limiting comments to one comment and one reply per post. It’s about time! The troll language is the same on all three sites. Extremely recognizable. I’ve read the same “script” material on this site (48hillsonline.org) from Sam/John/”Guest” that Sam has copied and pasted on those other sites. For example, Sam/John/Guest is big on using the Class Warfare Envy Card anytime anyone mentions anything about the techies or luxury condos in a negative way.

    No one would have that much time on their hands if they were not being paid. Of course, trolls adamantly deny being paid, along with other denials and then they attack the person who made the assertion. In my opinion, trolls should not be given a platform on any forum to comment to promote their libertarian/right-wing agenda, including this forum. That’s why many sites are turning off comments. This is not about “free speech.” If one wants “free speech” set up your own blog.

    It’s very wise if everyone ignores this “Sam” (or John or “Guest,” whatever name he/she is using at the time) as well as “Dave.” I’ve noticed that Sam often washes Dave’s back…one troll washing the other. I also run a blog and turned off comments sometime ago as many websites and blogs are doing these days because of this specific problem.

    Here’s an article about the CIA trolls which I think very few people even know about. CIA-Sponsored Trolls Monitor Internet & Interact With Users to Discredit Factual Information

    CIA Trolls Infect the Net

    I wish the family of Alex Nieto success in their lawsuit.

  5. Sam, I agree we need to avoid sullying Alex’s name with any particular political ideology. And I agree, religion often is escapism, but it wasn’t for Alex. Nichiren Buddhism is more a philosophy of life, than a religion, and it is about confronting ourselves and taking responsibility. One of my fellow Buddhists, an attorney/pro-tem judge wrote to me and the SF Police Commision a few days afterwards, saying “As a buddhist, my mind is open to what may have happened. I will say that I was with Alex the night before he died, offering prayers at our Buddhist culture center together on Thursday evening, about 24 hours before he died. I truly expect an investigation, and hope the truth comes out. Nothing will bring Alex back, and it was apparently his destiny to end his life this way, but still we need to insure that the courageous peace officers who enter into apparently dangerous situations have the best training, and the highest respect for human life.” Alex and i were both knew the many of the same people in responsibility and authority, whether it was Supervisor Campos, Supervisor Avalos, or even our fellow Buddhist friend, who was the SFPD police officer assigned to protect and drive the Chief of Police around town. I’ve prayed with Alex at the Culture Center, I worked on Victory Over Violence Exhibits with Alex, we both worked to support our neighborhood districts and care for members. Alex was an inspiration and encouragement to me personally, and i am saddened by his death.

  6. Many troubled people seek refuge in religion and this seems like no exception. It doesn’t appear that he gave it much time, with fatal consequences.

    Naturally I feel sorry for anyone who dies before their time, but that in way implies that I think that anyone else was responsible for his death than Nieto himself.

    And part of feeling compassion for those who know him is encouraging them not to sully his name by turning this into an overblown, opportunistic race-bating, cop-hating ideological binge.

  7. The Buddhist lay leader, Daisaku Ikeda, who was Alex Nieto’s mentor, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ” ‘Good-nature is plentiful, but we want justice with a heart of steel, to fight down the proud.’ If people are merely good-natured, then those who are arrogant and highhanded will have free rein to carry on as they please. Only those who fight with hearts of steel are people of justice.”

  8. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Sam. Alex was at Intro to Buddhism Meeting the night before, we knew Alex, you did not. This is a sad tragedy, and hope you can have compassion for the friends and family, and community Alex was so much a part of.

  9. Having read a very large number of Sam’s comments, I think it’s not too productive to engage with him since he has a very fixed point of view and a lot of time on his hands, and is more just expressing himself than seeking to convince anyone of anything. (In this case, I don’t think anyone who has given it much thought would be terribly surprised that a potential witness for the plaintiffs would only make the news once they have checked out the witness somewhat and filed their lawsuit— five months is not long as these things go— but Sam knows what he knows.)

    However, I find that the comments are greatly improved if you imagine that they’re all spoken by Sam the Eagle.

  10. Michael, is it your contention that anyone who thinks this was a legitimate shoot is by definition “hateful”?

    The intolerance of the left appears to know no bounds nor restraint. If you disagree with them, you are “hateful”

  11. The only thing cheap I see are “Sam”‘s constant stream of hateful right wing comments on this site and on Mission Local’s site.

  12. So after five months a mystery eye witness is suddenly “found” who just happens to have seen the whole thing and very conveniently saw something that is contradicted by every other eye witness?

    They’d better hope they don’t get me for a juror because I see right through this cheap stunt.

Comments are closed.

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