On May 3rd, shortly after 11 am, Nicholas Flusche, 26, got into a violent fight with an employee after entering a Subway restaurant on Market street. The violent tussle, which was caught on multiple surveillance cameras within the restaurant, shows Flusche repeatedly attack the employee who falls on the ground.
The attack goes on for about two minutes and at least two witnesses can be seen trying to break the fight. Shortly after two SFPD police officers enter the restaurant, one of them shoots Flusche who can be seen lying on the floor. Of the four videos, two videos are from the restaurant’s camera and two from the body cameras worn by SFPD officers were released on Wednesday morning at the SFPD Town Hall meeting.
Town-hall meetings after a police shooting were a hallmark of the tenure of former San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who positioned them as an effort to increase transparency. Within days, SFPD would hold a community meeting at a venue near the site of the shooting and provide an update regarding the investigation to the residents. The practice was momentarily suspended under interim Chief Toney Chaplin, who said that in the past the meetings “have been unproductive and disruptive.”
On Wednesday, starting his first “town hall” meeting, Chief William Scott cited it as an example of his commitment to transparency. Scott spoke alongside Tenderloin Station Capt. Teresa Ewins, Supervisor Jane Kim, and Cmdr. Greg McEachern and emphasized that all information released in the meeting was preliminary as the investigation is ongoing:
“We just want to report the facts, not a narrative, not spin. I’m not saying anybody previous to me did that, but we were very clear on our objective today. Let’s get the facts out as what happened today with no judgment or anything like that,” he told reporters.
Scott also emphasized that his department took the loss of life really seriously and had been in touch with members of the Flusche family, whom he said had been updated about the investigation ahead of the town hall.
Suhr was criticized by community members as being defensive of his officers. In contrast, Scott’s appeared cautious and reiterated that he wanted to keep the conversation “non-judgemental and factual.”
The name of the officer who shot Flusche was also officially released during the town hall as Officer Kenneth Cha, who was involved in another shooting incident in January. There have been two police shootings involving suspects this year and Cha is the officer at the center of both the shootings.
On Jan 6. Cha shot an unarmed 43-year old Sean Moore, who according to family and his lawyer is mentally ill, twice in the groin and the stomach. Cha was responding to a restraining order violation and noise complaint in the Ocean View neighborhood which resulted in him shooting Moore on the footsteps of his home. Moore ended up in the hospital, underwent surgery and was until recently facing charges of assaulting a police officer. The charges were dropped on Wednesday.
In the recent incident, Cha was on foot patrol when he entered the Subway restaurant and reportedly witnessed an ongoing stabbing. He shot Flusche once in the lower leg. Flusche was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The preliminary evidence, in this case, indicates that one officer fired one shot,” said McEachern.
No details were provided regarding Flusche’s possible motives and his autopsy is pending.
In footage obtained from Subway, Flusche can be seen standing at the side of the counter, he reaches behind the door unlatches it and starts to strike the Subway employee behind the counter.
Flusche can be seen striking the employee for about two minutes as the employee falls on the floor, apparently crouching, a woman enters the frame several times and can be seen hitting Flusche with what appears to be a food tray in an attempt to break the fight. That doesn’t help. A male in a tank-top can be seen entering the subway premises and attempts to break the fight.
It’s not clear whether Flusche is punching or repeatedly stabbing the victim during the violent attack but he doesn’t stop despite repeated interventions.
At one point, Flusche re-appears with a bloodied face and exits from behind the counter and can be seen holding the knife that he allegedly used to stab the victim. Body camera footage from Cha’s unnamed partner shows Cha firing a shot at Flusche, who fell on the ground but is still moving.
No other footage of the shooting has been released as Cha’s own camera is blocked by his hands.
Several speakers noted that Cha was also involved in the shooting of Moore, the only other shooting this year, and asked for an update on the investigation. Scott said that the previous shooting was still under investigations and that they were reviewing information on a case by case basis.
Jackie Barshak, with San Franciscans for Police Accountability, asked a question regarding de-escalation and whether the use of force used in the incident was necessary: “Why couldn’t Officer Cha find another way?” she asked.
Michael Fisher, San Francisco resident, expressed his support for Officer Cha and said he believed the police were in the right in this incident and were able to save a life: “ My daughter works behind the counter at the subway so I want to thank you because it could have been my daughter. It could have been her” he said.
The incident is under investigation by homicide inspectors but Scott emphasized that the Department of Police Accountability, the Internal Affairs unit of SFPD and the District Attorney’s office are also involved.
Scott concluded the meeting by reiterating that his department was committed to transparency: “We expect scrutiny every time use of force comes with bodily harm or death” he said.