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Saturday, September 19, 2020
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News + Politics Luis Gongora autopsy confirms he was shot on the...

Luis Gongora autopsy confirms he was shot on the ground

But report also includes irrelevant information that has no purpose except to malign the reputation of the victim

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Jose Gongora Pat, brother of Luis Gongora speaks to the board of supervisors in support of Sup. Avalos's proposal. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Jose Gongora Pat, brother of Luis Gongora speaks to the board of supervisors in support of Sup. Avalos’s proposal to hold SFPD budget in reserve until substantial reforms are met. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Last week, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office  released the autopsy report of Luis Demetrio Gongora Pat, a 45-year-old Yucatec Mayan man who was fatally shot by  San Francisco Police Department officers Sgt. Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone on April 8, 2016. 

The report documents the six bullets, allegedly shot within 30 seconds of arriving at the scene, according to video, that ultimately killed Gongora, documents his previous encounters with the law, and includes an in depth summary of his health at time of death. Since the release of the report the family has come forward to dismiss what they call biased and untrue statements in the autopsy report. 

The Report: 

Attorney with John Burris reveals gun shot wounds to Gongoras
Attorney with John Burris reveals  gunshot and rubber projectile wounds to Mr. Gongora’s back. Photo by Sana Saleem

According to the autopsy, the gunshot wound to the head is “downward” facing. In a press conference held in June, Gongora’s family attorneys from the John Burris’s law office made several disclosures as they filed a claim in the federal court against the city alleging excessive force, violation of civil rights and intentional wrongful death.

One of the disclosures was the downward trajectory of the bullet, now confirmed by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

According to attorney Adante Pointe, the bullet’s trajectory suggests that Mr. Gongora was down on the ground at the time of the shooting:

If you slow down the clip (CCTV footage of the shooting) (…)you focus on when the officers come back in the frame you would notice that the officer who initially had the shotgun transitioned to his 40 caliber gun is pointing downward and there are actually three shots that this video shows of him aiming and pointing his gun downwards which indicates and proves to us that Mr. Gongora was actually down on the ground when this officer decided to pump three more bullets into his body.

The autopsy also included a number of interactions Gongora had with police in California over the past six years. The most recent in 2015 saw Gongora arrested for stopping traffic by lying down in the street in San Francisco.

The report also notes that there were trace amounts of drugs in his system.

None of that is relevant to this case and there’s no clear reason why an autopsy report would include that information except to malign his reputation:

 “The small amount of drugs detected in his body does not change the fact that he was shot by officers who immediately escalated the violence against Luis and shot him six times within seconds after arriving on the scene.” said Laura Guzmán a member of the Justice & Honor for Luís Góngora Pat Coalition and expert on homelessness health and policy issues in response to the report. According to an official NHTSA report, the amount of drugs in Luis’s system can only be considered recreational

The shooting: 

The shooting earlier this year sparked protests across the city. Multiple eye witness accounts said Gongora didn’t present a threat to the police.

The SFPD officers’ statement alleges that Gongora lunged at them with a knife and refused to put the knife down when asked.

Shortly after the shooting a video was released from the neighboring building which shows police exit their cars and fire shots at Gongora within 20 seconds of exiting the police car:

The shooting of Luis Gongora sparked a 17-day hunger strike outside the Mission Police Station calling on Police Chief Greg Suhr to step down, holding him accountable for increased police brutality in the city. The group became known as the Frisco Five.

Suhr eventually stepped down from his position after yet another killing. Jessica Williams (nee Nelson) died at the hands of a police gun, days after the hunger strikers ended their strike following 18 days of not eating solid foods.

Local organizers have requested the Mexican foreign mission in the United States to make the case of justice for Gongora to the Department of Justice in the United States of America and the authorities of San Francisco demanding an independent federal investigation and criminal charges against the Sgt Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone, the police officers who shot Gongora.

Family and community organizers with Justice for Luis Góngora will be hosting a series of events starting Friday [details of the events are republished below]:

Event #1: Friday Oct. 7th, 10am. Press conference on the 6 Month Anniversary of Luis’s Murder by SFPD

WHAT: Family of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat —a Mayan indigenous father, husband,brother, son, uncle—, refute the biased autopsy report released by the San Francisco Medical Examiner on the six month anniversary of his murder by SFPD officers. They also plan a march to celebrate his life.

WHEN: Oct. 7th, 2016 @ 10a.m.

WHERE: The Luis GĂłngora Pat Community Altar on Shotwell Street (east side), near 19th Street in the Mission District

IMPORTANT NOTE: Afterwards, we will join the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition @ NOON at 850 Bryant Street in a clamor to D.A. GascĂłn to press charges against killer cops. More information here:https://www.facebook.com/events/153890998400464/

wp-1461120033853.jpgEvent #2: Friday Oct. 7th 6pm. Unveiling:“Traditional Mayan Altar in Honor of Luis Góngora Pat, killed by SFPD on April 7, 2016” SOMARTS Annual Day of the Dead Altar Exhibit

WHAT: The family of Luis and the Justice & Honor 4 Luis Góngora Pat Coalition are raising a traditional Mayan altar with an educational element about Luis’s killing by SFPD as part of the SOMArts Annual Day of the Dead Exhibit, which theme this year is “A Promise Not To Forget.”

WHEN: Unveiling of altars is Oct. 7th @SOMARTS 6-9pm.
Exhibit will stay up until Nov. 5th, 2016

WHERE: SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA

HOW: Purchase tickets for the unveiling of the altars event on October 7th here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-promise-not-to-forget-dia-de-los-muertos-2016-exhibition-unveiling-tickets-27613362310 or come during gallery hours throughout the month for free! Tuesday–Friday 12–7pm, Saturday 11am–5pm & Sunday 11am–3pm  More information at somarts.org/promise

IMPORTANT NOTE: The family of O’Shaine Evans will be celebrating his 2nd Angelversary of being killed by SFPD at 8pm on October 7th, 2016 at the site of his community altar and memorial on Jack London Alley. More information here:https://www.facebook.com/events/1173071472750102/

quilt-flyer_001Event #3: Sunday October 9th, 2016 11am-4pm. Help make A Community Quilt in Honor of Luis GĂłngora Pat!

WHAT: A community quilt making event in honor of Luis GĂłngora Pat. The family of Luis in San Francisco and our coalition in collaboration with our community allies at Praxis, Paseo ArtĂ­stico and Alley Cat Bookstore invite you to help make a quilt in honor of Luis.

The finished quilt will be taken to his hometown of Teabo, Yucatán and delivered on November 2nd Day of the Dead to his wife, parents, and children.

This is a family friendly and community event!

WHEN: Sunday October 9th, 2016 11am-4pm.

WHERE: Alley Cat Bookstore (backroom), 3036 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

HOW: Just show up and if you want to make donations contact Praxis (415-800-6601)

 

 

 

Correction: An earlier version of the piece incorrectly said that
Jessice Williams was killed hours after hunger strikers ended strike.
We regret the error.
Sana Saleem
Sana Saleem is a writer with a focus on social justice and human stories. She's member board of advisory for the Courage Foundation, Edward Snowden's legal defense fund.

19 COMMENTS

  1. will you move to give back the sfpd tazers so that even before they have to use rubber and/or bean bag rounds, they have another choice?
    or will you continue to force cops to make the choice of either doing nothing or going to use lethal force
    and an atty’s statements are not fact

  2. Police proceedures need to be changed. Someone with a knife is not really a threat to others outside a 30′ perimeter. Seems like the cops should have stood off (two cars respond, with more on the way at the time of shooting), and tried to negotiate a surrender.

    Whiile I’m not a fan to Tazers, there must be a weapon, a la Spiderman’s web-gun or a net (like catching animals), that would ensnare a perp and keep him from roaming freely.

    Seems like he was shot for not getting on the ground (not obeying). While there certainly ought to be punishment for that, I don’t think Death oughta be the first option.

  3. >”there’s no clear reason why an autopsy report would include that information except to malign his reputation”

    It’s called a toxicology report. It is included in every autopsy.

    >”The report also notes that there were trace amounts of drugs in his system.”

    No, the report said that his methamphetamine level was 1.01. Anything higher that 0.2 is considered to be a sign of abuse. When doctors prescribe methamphetamine they keep it under .05.

    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=amphetamine_blood_screen

    • Drugs in the system are properly part of an autopsy report, but prior encounters with police are not relevant to the condition of the deceased or the cause of his death. Why they should be included, as the article states they were, is unclear to me.

      • You’re splitting hairs Playland. It is part of the report and calling one part of the report “basic” and the rest something else doesn’t change things. I still don’t think past criminal encounters are relevant to a report about one’s cause of death.

        And yes, I do consider 48 Hills more reliable than many of the comments I see in these discussion threads.

      • @jhayes362:disqus -The investigator was trying to find a next of kin. To do so he contacted various sources including the Mexican Consulate and the police. He, quite properly, saved everything that they gave him about Gongora. That is his job.

        Your notion that he should have discarded information that the police agencies gave him is absurd, sorry. For example the Santa Clara Sheriff had an address and phone number for Gongora that was then used to try and find a next of kin.

        Of course that information has to stay in the report.

        And no, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you consider 48 Hills to be a reliable source of information. They say what you want to believe, which is probably all that matters.

      • True, the investigator was looking for next of kin, which ultimately came from the Mexican consulate. The Santa Clara Sheriff’s information was legitimate but there were other arrests, including by the SFPD, where no contacts or follow ups were listed, just the arrest.

        As to your last paragraph, I’ve been trained to weed out facts from opinion. I’ve found these threads to be very heavy on opinion, much lighter on facts.

    • Where is the report? “Trace amts” usually indicates ‘left-over’ or contact quite some time before. If his was 1.0, thats equivalent to a 0.35 alcohol content – or almost comatose (for alcohol, anyway – iow – loaded!)

    • Maybe this man was a hopelessly degenerate drug addict flailing his arms around on the street corner but death is a pretty stiff penalty to pay. I think a lot of people alive now are simply taking up space on the planet, but on the other hand its not my decision to make, or yours or the police force being questioned. Its really for whatever higher power or Almighty you believe in. Executing the homeless without consequences sets a dangerous precedent and the shoot first, find out what happened later has to stop.

      • I wasn’t commenting in any way about the nature of the police response.

        I was just noting that something that the author wrote was demonstrably false.

        Readers who arrive at these pages via Google might not be familiar with 48 Hills and they probably assume that what they are reading is true.

        What seems to happen is that if a 48 Hills writer wants to note that there were drugs involved they will automatically describe them as trace if that best fits with the story they are trying to tell. 48 Hills NEVER makes a mistake that works against their side.

      • Maybe the author should have said that the man was fucked up out of his mind on methamphetamine and not that there were trace amounts in his system. But in this particular situation I think that is a minor detail.
        We hear about police brutality every day in the U.S. And no one is really surprised anymore. It’s not new- police brutality has always occurred but this episode was particularly chilling in my opinion.

      • @MKR, we’re talking about two completely different things. You’re talking about police brutality and I’m talking about journalistic integrity.

        The author could have left the matter of drugs out of her article completely, but since she decided to mention them she should have told the truth.

      • This is an article about police brutality. You are the straying from the topic. I’m sure the author would correct her errors but it won’t change anything

      • Lets just agree to disagree, @MKR . I think its important that reporters tell the truth and you consider false reporting to be a trivial matter. So lets just leave it at that.

        Have a nice day.

      • the homeless in this city are not being executed. what they are is being neglected until they become a danger to themselves and/or to others
        instead of bashing the cops for doing their jobs, you should be bashing the city for wasting 240mil per year on programs for the homeless that dont serve the homeless

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