By Tim Redmond
Alex Nieto had at least 14 gunshot wounds and possibly as many as 15, including two shots to the head and several to the back, the long-awaited autopsy report shows.
The report says the damage was so extensive that it was hard to tell exactly how many bullets hit the young man; the 14 wounds could possibly have been caused by ten bullets.
I got the detailed report just an hour or so ago, and it’s going to take some time to go through every page. But the basic facts are clear:
Nieto was shot repeatedly, possibly after he was already on the ground.
“There are at least 14 distant gunshot wounds of the head, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities,” the report by Chief Medical Examiner Amy P. Hart shows.
That confirms the evidence we’ve posted from an audiotape made near the scene, which shows a flurry or multiple gunshots.
The autopsy was completed April 17. A toxicology report, which showed that (like about half of San Francisco) Nieto had at some point in the past few weeks consumed marijuana, was completed June 11.
It’s not clear why it’s taken three months for the report to be released.
The autopsy concludes that his death was a homicide.
The report includes a snippet of information from the SFPD account of the shooting, although it doesn’t contain the names of the officers. The account by police contains little new information, although it does claim that the Taser Nieto was carrying had been discharged.
“The subject reportedly brandished and discharged a Taser at the officers,” the report states.
A lawsuit by the family states that eyewitness accounts show Nieto never pointed his weapon at the officers.
If he had discharged the Taser at the officers, it wouldn’t have been much of a threat; the nonlethal stun gun available to civilians has an effective range of no more than 15 feet, and by all accounts, the officers were closer to 70 feet away. If they were following standard procedure, they were protected by their cars.
The Taser could also have discharged when Nieto fell to the ground.
The report of a discharge raises another interesting question. The SFPD says that the officers couldn’t tell from that distance whether the weapon was a Taser or a pistol. But if Nieto had fired it, the difference would have been instantly clear; the sound of a Taser, which shoots darts propelled by nitrogen cartridges, is different from the report of a pistol. And of course, no bullet would have been flying through the air.
The SFPD account also states that the officers handcuffed Nieto after he was down on the ground and shot multiple times with 40-caliber rounds. Paramedics arrived 15 minutes later and tried to treat him, but Nieto was already dead.
Most of the bullets hit Nieto in the front of the body; both head wounds were to the face. But there were at least two gunshot wounds in his back, indicating that he had either turned away from the officers or was already on the ground when those struck him.
I couldn’t reach the lawyers for the family for comment. I’ll post more information as I get it.