SFPD Community Meeting: Alejandro Nieto’s Taser Looked Like a Handgun




During tonight’s tense community meeting at Leonard Flynn Elementary School, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr released new details about Friday night’s officer-involved shooting death of Bernal Neighbor Alejandro Nieto.

Here’s the coverage from the Examiner:

Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by police Friday night after being asked to show his hands but instead drawing a Taser that was mistaken for a gun, Police Chief Greg Suhr told a volatile crowd Tuesday night.
“He did not have a gun, he had a Taser just like this,” said Suhr, pointing to a photo of a black-and-yellow Taser beside him in a packed hall at Leonard Flynn Elementary School.

Amid shouts of “I hope you die, [cops]” from the crowd, Suhr gave a quick but detailed retelling of Nieto’s death, explaining first that the 28-year-old was not legally allowed to own a gun because of mental health issues.

Suhr began by reading the log of the 911 caller reporting a man with a black handgun on his hip in Bernal Heights Park at 7:11 p.m. Friday.

Soon afterward, police arrived and, from a distance of about 75 feet, located Nieto, a San Francisco resident.

“They asked him to show his hands,” Suhr said. Instead, Nieto told police to show their hands and pointed at them. When officers saw a red laser light emanating from what was later identified as a Taser, Suhr said, they thought a gun was pointing at them and opened fire in “defense of their own lives.”

When some in the crowd wondered aloud why Nieto had reportedly been hit 14 times, Suhr responded by saying, “We do not know at this point in time how many times Mr. Nieto was hit.”

Suhr also displayed the image of the weapons shown above. The taser recovered from Alejandro Nieto is on the left. On the right is a handgun, shown for comparison.

Your Bernalwood editor was in attendance at the meeting, and I can confirm that those are the facts as presented by SFPD Chief Suhr. You may make of them what you will.

After Suhr’s presentation, members of the public were invited to address the audience. There was grieving for Alejandro Nieto — and other victims of officer-involved shootings. There were  questions raised about police training, and the proportional use of force. There were questions raised about the racial underpinnings of police conduct. There were comments that identified gentrification and real estate development as the animating force behind the violence that took Neighbor Alejandro Nieto’s life. You may also make of that what you will.

None of it, however, will undo this tragedy or bring Alejandro Nieto back to the neighborhood and the community he loved.

UPDATE: Vivian Ho from the Chronicle has a very thorough write-up about the meeting last night and the questions that hover over the investigation into what happened on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Bernalwood readers are conducting a robust and constructive discussion of the incident and its aftermath in the comments.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

98 thoughts on “SFPD Community Meeting: Alejandro Nieto’s Taser Looked Like a Handgun

  1. From what I know about law enforcement and the details in this web posting, it appears to be a “good” use of deadly force by SFPD. They will do an investigation and make findings, but bottom line, one doesn’t point something that looks like a gun with a laser light at the police when they have their guns drawn unless one wants to go meet Jesus. That he was hit 14 times is a testament to quality time spent at the SFPD firing range. Thank God no Police nor citizen was injured.

    • “Thank God no Police nor citizen was injured.”

      What a horribly callous thing to say.

      • that not good to say that like u dont care about alejandro because the thing that the police are saying is not true there is people that were at the park and said alejandro was eating and when he was done eating he when to claim the mountain when the police ran after him and he fell and that when they shot him 14 time i hope that doesn’t happen to one of your family members rip primo i love u

    • What are you talking about? An innocent citizen WAS injured. He was killed.

      • If you’re so damned “innocent”, then why would a person carry a taser that LOOKED like a handgun in the first place.

    • Mental Health? He had a scholarship at CCSF. 14 shots in BH? Talk about extra scared residents. Talk about making it worse. Talk about a guy removing his weapon because he is scared and knows he looks daunting because there are weapons pointed at him. Talk about a bunch of rangers gunning a lone security guard down.

      Mental Health, what, is this, SFPD eval of Nieto when he applied with the PD? Talk about what kind of mental health issue he had, because this sounds like Nieto hit a ceiling in SFPD culture pawned off, below radar, as a mental handicap. Dude, was smart and scared and he was gunned down because was picked out due to his “able gangster persona.”

      Personally, I can’t tell you how often I am mistaken for this kind of person and I am a God Damn Accountant, wear flannel, and not even that dark (dad is White, mom is Mediterranean). Don’t be scared BH, you’re being insane. I grew up in BH when it was way worse and my mom was an SFPD street cop and super badass, no actual gangster ever came to our door step. What helped me with my cultured diversity was not a nanny who spoke another language, though that was my grand mother, but it was hanging out in different Parks and Rec.

      Those darker than I, think I am white, those lighter than I think I am of color. What I am saying is, your children will be respected in ‘ghetto’ park and recs. You need to start immersing yourself, especially the next gen., so your crowd control powers will not make the mistake like it made in todays world a few, tricking, days ago. You can be less scared of violence if you go into the homes of whom you feel is violent and start dialogue that creates a relationship and thus earn an immersion, a constitution of equality, knowledge of culture and nurture personal diversity. Because today, you are calling some crazy BS, and it is making you look bad, scary, and standardizing what privilege looks like.

      • This notion to blame this sad situation on race — that the affluent (white, you are insinuating) folk in BH were responsible for calls to police and then their gunning down of an innocent man of color — is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t care what color, background, ethnicity, race, whatever, someone is, if they are acting very strangely, threatening several people and their pets, urinating openly on a garage (see the comment below), and doing all of that ARMED WITH WHAT APPEARED TO BE A DEADLY WEAPON, you are damn straight I’m going to call the cops if I witness that. And I’d hope any of my responsible neighbors would too, as they did.

        Give up the race card already and see the situation for what it is: The police shot and killed a man who was a potentially deadly threat to them and other innocent citizens. They did the right, although very sad, thing. Nieto gave them no choice.

    • I bet he did point anything, bet he was scared, took it out to put it on the ground. No way he pointed it at them. No way.

      • Right, and no way he shot his former friend with a Taser several times in front of his young son, either, right? Or was acting strange enough that night that more than one concerned person called 911? Please understand, I’m not trying to smear his character. I am just sick of hearing the police get slammed for this. All he had to do was show his hands, as anyone in their right mind would have done, and he didn’t.

  2. Can someone please explain the reasoning behind these comments (seriously, I’d like to understand, not trolling):

    “There were comments that identified gentrification and real estate development as the animating force behind the violence that took Neighbor Alejandro Nieto’s life”

    • I think the reasoning is that development brings more affluent people into the neighborhood, which in turn tend to be more afraid of “black and brown” people (A term used by a commenter yesterday), resulting in more calls to police about them and subconciently skewing the police to see them as more dangerous as well, with outcomes such as friday. Or, as it was my impression yesterday, some think about an outright conspiracy to use the police to “clean up” the developed neighborhoods. Which could also be happening on a subconcious level.

      • Yes. Having been a participant at the Town Hall gathering last night it was clear that family and friends are grieving and hurt, from the loss of a loved one on Friday, but also from a broader sense that they have been losing ground, losing the very fabric of the community they grew up in.

        This is understandable. I only moved to Bernal in 1997, and even in that short time the transformation of the community has been real, and profound. Are those of us who moved here more recently responsible for the social and economic changes taking place? Not directly perhaps, but we are all participants in those changes, in one way or another. Are we the ones to blame for this transformation? Not directly, of course, but in any case we WILL be blamed if we remain blind to the impacts these changes are having all around us. If, in our reactions to the case at hand and to reactions by the aggrieved (as can be seen in some of what I think of as truly horrible comments posted here over the last few days) we show no sense of the history of police violence towards young men of color in America. And if, more broadly, we lack empathy or understanding for what working class communities in Bernal and beyond are going through as our city and our country reaches disparities of wealth not seen since the Gilded Age. That figure released by Oxfam a few months ago, that 85 individuals now own as much wealth as the poorest 50% of humanity is the context in which blame, fairly or not, gets assigned.

        One of the most telling testimonials to me at yesterday’s Town Hall was framed nicely by Christian above, and by Otis in an excellent summary of the meeting posted last night. A seemingly well-known and respected long time Latino resident talked about how little interest most new, more affluent, white neighbors show in getting to know and coming to understand and respect the Latino and African American working class residents that were born here and grew up here. He noted a tendency towards suspiciousness, a standoffishness, and a tendency to call the police if music got too loud… He told a nice and amusingly sad little story about inviting new neighbors to his annual barbecue, with very few showing up, and yes, someone calling the cops on him for disturbing the peace…

        This was within a narrative heard often last night that the reactions and descriptions provided to the police on Friday contributed to the way the situation unfolded. The hall, packed standing room only, fully understood what he meant, and seemed fully in agreement with the sense of loss and anger he was expressing. Again, not everyone new here fits within the narrative of fear and suspicion he described. But that, I think, is part of the context for seeing “gentrification and real estate development as the animating force behind the violence that took Neighbor Alejandro Nieto’s life.”

  3. Open-and-shut suicide-by-cop. This would be a discrediting case for people against police brutality to champion. Use this to campaign for mental health instead. Sorry it happened but the odds of this particular situation being an omertà thing are remote. Too many eyes on it.

    • Bullshit. The guy was on his way to work. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Nonsense. The guy had a stun gun, because he was on his way to his job. Which required him to carry a stungun. He was not a “threat to the community”, unless the community you mean is “People who are trying to rob El Toro taqueria”, since that’s where he worked as a security guard.

      • The decision to have his work equipment (which happens to look just like a gun) strapped on in plain sight while “on his way to work” seems odd. This likely would have been a non-event if he had it stashed away in a backpack until he was on duty. Maybe it was a lapse in judgement, but the brandishing of the weapon at the dog and threatening the owner seem to suggest otherwise.

      • Well, the only lapse in judgement I see is the one by the police officers who, mistaking a taser for a firearm, panicked and shot an innocent man to death.

      • I have no idea what happened up there. But I do believe that it would have been easy to mistake that specific taser for a firearm from a distance of 75 feet, and particularly if it was not clearly viewed from a profile (side-view) perspective.

      • “Nonsense. The guy had a stun gun, because he was on his way to his job. Which required him to carry a stungun.”

        Which he had previously used on someone else earlier int he week, zapping him in the back 3 times in front of his child. The guy filed for a restraining order. Dude had mental issues.

  4. I was at that meeting but left at 7pm because the statements were all just too hateful and negative. A mob of activists were shouting down anyone who said things they didn’t agree with. It was very intimidating. Before I left, a large majority of the speakers identified themselves as residents of the Mission or had previously lived in the Mission, or had previously lived in the bay area. One was from Santa Rosa.

    The one person who identified himself as living on the hill was boo’ed and shouted down by the activists in the audience.

    I found the meeting very disappointing. I could barely hear what Police Chief Greg Suhr was saying because there was so much shouting, cursing and heckling around me.

    • I’m not sure what all these comments about the activists being from the Mission are all about. Bernal Hill is just as much owned by the folks in the Mission as it is by the folks in Bernal. They consider it their backyard and have every right to do so.

      • None of the people I was referring to made any indication that they spend time in Bernal Hill Park or had any interest in the hill.

    • In order to do justice to describing a 4 hour mtg., you most definitely need to stay longer than abandoning the process after just one hour. And true, Suhr did not have a whole lot to say, because according to his own words (which I was able to hear just fine), he did not have (m)any of the facts yet.

  5. Another really good reason not to own a gun or anything that looks like one. And certainly a textbook example of why not to point it at the police, Very sad story all around but I’ll have to side with the police on this one. But just barely. Rusty’s comments were sad too, I’ve seen similar situations where this sort of thing gets so ugly you just want to go home and take a shower. Thanks Rusty for your reporting.

    • agree…why would anyone want to carry anything that remotely looks like a gun. Toy gun, stun gun, even a gun tattoo. The police are not trained to fire warning shots.

  6. Again, I’ll ask: why was nieto acting like that??? Suhr indicated he was legally not allowed to own a fire arm because of mental illness. What was it? Schizophrenia?? Did his family say he was off his meds that night? Even if it was a “good” shooting, even if the police were responding to calls of bernal residents who were scared by his erratic behavior and the “gun” on his hip, I still say community policing could have helped. If officers know the locals and recognize people w mental illness, people might get the help they need.

  7. Why was he carrying a taser around then? He should have known better not to point anything at a cop, especially if it resembled a gun. How are they supposed to know? And how can a cop know *everyone* in a ‘hood? It’s overkill if he was shot all those times though.

  8. Disclosure: I posted most of this comment under a previous Bernalwood post about the shooting. I apologize for posting again, for those who have read the other one, but this is the more relevant place to put it. It offers more on the meeting than what others have posted, I don’t know if anyone else will post something similarly substantive about the meeting, and I feel it provides more “balance” to a delicate situation. After reading the above comments, I do add the following 3 paragraphs.

    Sorry, but anyone who left at 7 PM (less than one-fourth of the way through, as it turned out) was no more open to hearing what people have to say than those who were yelling and cursing may have seemed. It was indeed a rough and uncomfortable scene–for a while, and perpetuated later by a few in the crowd, and fewer and fewer as time went on. (It was the worst in the back; one could simply have moved to another part of the room, however crowded, if that place was not to your liking.) Much of the deep and, frankly, gut-wrenching emotionalism on display was understandable, though I would also say that personal attacks on the officers in the room were unjustifiable.

    Close-mindedness works in many ways, but actually doesn’t work at all. The meeting went on for 3 more hours. I don’t think many would make conclusions about a Niners game after the first quarter, even if they were watching some very disconcerting things. The same attitude should be applied to hearing from one’s fellow citizens after a seemingly good person with no criminal record, a school scholarship, a gaggle of community activists who cherish him, and a life of promise was killed in the park whose name we use to identify ourselves and our neighborhood.

    Many on this blog–many–have meanly (and arrogantly) adopted “Get Use to It!” as a rallying cry to repel those who feel threatened in the community, and to describe skyrocketing real estate prices (and all of their effects) and other changes that, for some whose families have been here for generations, are daily reminders of disenfranchisement (some very real and others perceived or steeped in nostalgia). If one would have stuck around, you would have also heard from residents who acknowledge that what they termed “gentrification” is a staple of life, not just a demonized phenomenon that has come about in the past 10, 20, or 30 years. They may even recognize that they were once “gentrifiers,”

    The breadth of the comments went far beyond name-calling and disgust. It takes time and patience (and even a strong stomach) to stick around, hear people out, and take away from a meeting something besides that name-calling, that disgust. So that’s what I did…

    [Below is my original]

    I attended the town hall [last night]. It went on for 4 hours. The rage and pain were sustained and palpable. I went out of communal curiosity mostly–I don’t know the young man who died but wanted to feel a significant response and to learn more–and ended up in tears for much of it.

    A few things struck me:

    – This tragedy is going to galvanize movements for change–with police conduct, in our neighborhood, and around the City. San Francisco has its Oscar Grant, sadly. But hopefully something good with come from this human disaster (which is also the gracious hope of Alex’s poised and introspective father).

    – There were some good (and not overly idealistic) suggestions made about how police can work differently, and also how they can interact with a community that often does not trust them. First, have officers wear cameras (or some kind of video equipment) in order to record their work, something that may be especially helpful with a branch of public servants who so many citizens feel are able to act with impunity, supported steadfastly by their colleagues and so rarely accountable to the public (even though we help pay their salaries). Another one: At town halls and other public meetings, police should come unarmed, and maybe even in street clothes–gestures that will help defuse an aura of intimidation and authority that police often exude to non-law-enforcement folks (the rest of us).

    – The police response–with such great violence–seems to point to several things that could have been done differently, and that there was likely an excessive use of force by nervous officers. Alex was shot, reportedly, from 75 feet away. For someone “acting erratically,” that is probably too far a distance to actually hit a target. The police did not seem to try to “disable” him by striking him in the leg or some place where a shot would not be fatal; they are sharpshooters who aimed and shot him in the torso, apparently more than a dozen times. (And that was after they had spoken to him, so there could have been time to square up and take good aim.) The police also could not tell the difference between a gun and a taser–yes, from a significant distance, but there are distinguishing features (like color) that could possibly have been seen, as it was still perfectly light out at the time. Also, the taser was giving off a beam of light, which is somewhat unusual for a firearm, though some guns have this functionality as well.

    – As pointed out at the end of the town hall–when the victim’s father finally spoke–the police conduct since the shooting so far has been simply shameful, inflicting further insult and torment on a severely injured family. The family, four days after Alex’s death, still have not seen his body. After the shooting occurred, the family did not know for nearly an entire day, and were only informed after police came to them on Saturday, asking numerous questions about Alex (after the questioning, they told them he was dead). During that same visit, the officers asked if they could search Alex’s room, but the family refused to let them enter. The officers claimed that Alex did not have anything in his pockets, but they searched well enough to find his keys and confiscate his vehicle, which is still in police custody.

    – While many who spoke bemoaned “gentrification” and the changes in the community, including displacement, behind their pained words was clearly a deeper message that we can all understand and which several people said outright: Get to know your neighbors when you can, of all kinds, and understand the range of cultures that surround you, even if you may not be from similar traditions or backgrounds. That does not mean that you will know everyone, including a young man who may have been in a bad mood and who was in the wrong place to draw suspicion to himself, but it shows respect and openness that is only good for fostering community. If a neighbor has a party, go if you’re invited, and invite neighbors over who you have not had a chance to get to know (as they may accept your warmth, with enthusiasm); say hi to someone who you see walking down your street all the time but still don’t know; if there’s someone with a bus parked near your property (this is always handy to pull out of the toolbox, since NIMBY is the son of misplaced restlessness), think if it really does any damage to the community if it is there or not (and if it’s not parked illegally, butt out).

    – What else did I learn? Do you see that dark blue Lincoln that has been parked on my street, unmoved, for weeks and weeks, the one that I know is not going to budge unless the Big One hits? Yeah, that one. I will not call it in to the parking police, since I know it belongs to an aging, blue-collar worker who lives across from me in the most crooked and modest house on the block, one that may be swept off its roots by a fierce wind someday. The man, who walks with a severe limp, has been here far longer than I have, and he will still be here once I leave. My sense is that he has enough going on in his life already, what with all the changes, and even with those things that are staying the same.

    • I really want to thank Otis again (see above) for taking the time to post last night and here these thoughtful and helpful comments about the Town Hall meeting. The only thing I’ll add is that my High School daughter attended the meeting and was moved to tears many times by what she heard. She felt bad about skipping homework (mostly because it just means more, later), but agreed she learned more last night in a few hours than she has in a few years of High School government and American history classes. There were a few rough moments, but it was a moving, enlightening, hard, and in an odd and sad way, intensely community-building evening as well.

  9. WRONG!

    These are not “facts.”

    “Facts” can only qualify as facts when they have been decided as “indisputable.” No one witnessed what Alejandro “actually” did do. What is being “interpreted” as “facts” is only what the police are saying “they” did. Alejandro cannot tell his side, so conveniently, the same police who executed him is doing the explaining for him. Yeah, “facts” from these two cops right? The same police that shot him dead. The same ones who will be facing a class action suite by the one and only attorney John Burris — an expert at collecting “facts”–undisputable. This alone can be enough motivation for the ones telling Alejandro’s side of the story to be “lies.”

    Furthermore, before all of you start condemning Alejandro with your “he should have known better” accusations, I see that our Bernalwood editor did “not” say anything in here about how the police failed to appear at Alejandro’s home until one-thirty in the afternoon on Saturday. But even worse, rather than first telling his family of Alejandro’s execution at the hands of their colleagues, the police began interrogating the family with a series of cold, personal questions about Alejandro’s childhood behaviour. These same policemen then asked to come in the house to search Alejandro’s room–no explanations, no reasons why. It was not until Alejandro’s father refused to allow the police to enter the home, after great insistence to enter, that then, and only then, did the police proceeded to tell the family of Alejandro’s tragedy. One cannot fault our Bernalwood editor since Captain Suhr left this little “fact” out entirely last night. We did not hear of this shameful behaviour by the SFPD until Alejandro’s father spoke at the end of the town hall meeting with our great supervisor David Campos translating at his side. Translating because neither parent speaks the English language.

    The police proceeded to tell the family that Alejandro had nothing on his clothes. A “lie”, because the police did indeed have Alejandro’s car keys which happened to be on his clothes–a “fact” or how else could the police have the keys to Alejandro’s car –“indisputable.” The police then took Alejandro’s vehicle because according to SFPD, the car was under investigation since it was being regarded as evidence of the scene of the crime. A “lie”, because the car was not parked anywhere near the spot he was gunned down, that would be “the scene of the crime;” to the contrary, it was parked near his house off Cortland where Alejandro used to live. How the car can be regarded as being a part of the scene of the crime, you got me? Perhaps there is a “fact” that they are conveniently leaving out, as clearly they have so well been doing from the very start. In addition, Alejandro’s parents were complaining last night to Captain Suhr that it was Tuesday night and still, after five days had gone by, FIVE DAYS; the police had yet to answer their question of when would they have their boy’s body given back to them. Or even better, when would they be able to go down to the coroners to see their son.

    No answer–no response on behalf of Captain Suhr– almost as if Suhr himself was the one who could speak no english. He does–“fact!”

    In the end, what Captain Suhr reported to us last night is only “one” side of the story. The side the police (i.e Alejandro’s killers) are using to justify their unlawful actions. The grave mistake they will never admit to have been a part of. Could attorney John Burris provide enough motivation for such muteness? I cannot say. But what I can say, is that this is the same story they will use to give their killers back their .40 caliber semi-automatic Glock 22s returning them to our city streets to continue on the payroll and one day potentially, kill again.

    Until these “facts” surface and are qualified as being “true beyond reasonable doubt;” until these facts have been proven to be “indisputable,” and clearly, last night they were “not,” they cannot be eliminated as potentially being “lies!” Lies being told by the chief in an effort to not just protect his own kind, but more importantly, for the sake of saving his very own reputation. Anything less of that would fall short of displaying his capabilities to run a safe police department high in integrity which in turn could be interpreted as not being competent enough to act for the city as a strong leader of “his” police force. Not any police force, but San Francisco’s police force. Until one finds out what Alejandro “actually” did “do,” to call these “facts” is a lie. But, since no one witnessed the event, and Alejandro can no longer speak, it clearly is beginning to appear that the facts–indisputable truths, (i.e.. Alejandro’s side) will never be known for certain. A double tragedy as I see it.

    In sum, Alejandro did “not” have a “mental illness” fact–“indisputable”: It is not dark at 7:10pm- fact–“undisputable;” again, these are only “one” side of the story we as citizens are being presented with by the same side of the party that remains with the privilege of being able to tell “their” story. A story that has not been proven as “indisputable” from potentially being lies. Lies with the probability to be used as a cover-up by the very same police who gunned down Nieto. At 7:10pm there “is” enough light for the bold wide “yellow” stripes on the stun gun to be identified had one of the two cops remained calm and collected. The distance of seventy-five feet is not a “fact” because one cannot eliminate its certainty for accuracy; and with not one witness, or an Alejandro to help us confirm such a figure, this given remains vulnerable to inherently and forever remain a “lie.”

    One lie more, out of many, with so little to go on from Alejandro’s side of the story.


    • Amen. We see several things similarly…A lot of what is “known” (and what has appeared on comments here regarding this tragedy) are careless conclusions by folks who I hope would be more willing to be tolerant of views (even very angry ones) and think more deeply about issues that reach well beyond their four walls. As noted above, very important details on this case have been left out or evaded–in the police “presentation” last night and news coverage. If not scandalous, it’s horrifying.

    • Fact: You are a trained and licensed psychotherapist who worked with this young man and know all about his mental state and are sure he had no mental illness?

      • So what if he was unstable, having a breakdown, or acting erratically? I still think our police should be striving to deescalate situations and prevent the loss of life, and they should be coming to us after events like this seeking to demonstrate that they did everything possible in that direction. But they didn’t do that here: they treated Alejandro’s parents like witnesses to a crime and they focused their energies on proving that Alejandro was a criminal. How about proving to us that you did everything possible to avoid the loss of a life?

      • +1
        Unless you are Alejandro, or his therapist/doctor, you do not know if he did or didn’t have a mental illness. That cannot be claimed as an indisputable fact.

        It seems as if many of the issues Orlando is pointing out are in regards to how the police chose to conduct their investigation. Sure, as a citizen I would think the police should have explained to Alejandro’s family that he had been killed before questioning them, but (as a non-police officer) I don’t know the reasoning behind their method of approaching the family. Maybe they were callous, or maybe they prioritized the collection of information/evidence over the feelings of the family. Or perhaps both.

    • Orlando,
      Hate to burst your little bubble but I witnessed his car being towed away and the Tow truck driver had to break into the car using a slim jim and they dragger ti forward skidding the rear tires on the pavement until they could get a dolly underneath so it could be rolled away.
      The Police did not “in fact” have his keys – please do not make up facts to suit your position.

  10. Orlando -I see more hearsay in your comment here than anywhere else. Is hearsay a lie?Is it? You weren’t at the shooting,. You were not a witness. You hear colored stories and interpret them. You are not subjective. It is impossible to be so.

    Police do not shoot to slow down suspects when guns are involved. In all our grand hindsight, we would all just love it if knee caps were removed rather than howermany shots to the torso. But, it does not work that way when a gun is involved. There was, for all the police knew, a gun…involved.

  11. I think it’s premature to assume any facts that are not evident. What we do know is this;
    A 911 call was made regarding a man with a gun on Bernal Hill.
    Police responded fired multiple rounds (more than 14) and killed Alex Nieto.
    Police recovered a Taser weapon shaped like a gun.
    Alex Nieto was a security guard.
    All else is conjecture, rumor and misinformation, merely trusting statements made by the police is naive. We need more independent witness statements. Eventually, the story will unfold but it’s important not to pre-judge anyone, not the police, nor Alex Nieto until we know the facts. Trying to couch this as a gentrification issue is ridiculous and hurtful to the community.

    • It’s unfortunate they show the side of the taser rather than the business end, when it’s pointed at you with its laser sight it is indistinguishable from a firearm from 75 feet. It’s unimaginable that anyone in clear mind would draw such a thing on police with their guns out without essentially forfeiting their life, that area was also at least in shade by that time of night. How many bullets the police fired is completely irrelevant; one is easily capable of killing.

      • Actually let me correct myself. The number of bullets fired _is_ relevant and, because it’s more than held in a single pistol clip, demonstrates that _multiple_ police officers felt threatened enough by Nieto to open fire repeatedly. Thus it was not just one rogue cop’s overreaction that the other cops are covering for. The odds get further and further out that this was unprovoked use of deadly force…

  12. I find the news about the police’s interactions with Alejandro’s family deeply disturbing, and demonstrative of an attitude that Alejandro was a criminal, a perp. It suggests to me that they approached him that way when they encountered him on Bernal Hill and they interacted with him that way before shooting him. And they are still treating him and his family that way now. I understand that it’s hard to be a police officer in a big city, and that there are a lot of stresses. But it’s a good professional job and we should demand that good professionals be in our employ. What I’ve heard about the way the police are interacting with Alejandro’s family does not give me confidence that they are acting like good professionals and it does not give me confidence that they are telling the truth about what happened with Alejandro — they are trying to make a case against Alejandro and trying to protect their officers. We have a right to demand better.

  13. Whether or not this young man had a mental illness… this story is being repeated all over the city in various ways. San Francisco General Hospital has closed more than half of it’s psychiatric beds in the last year. What does this mean to residents of SF? It means if a loving family member brings their son, daughter/brother/sister to the psychiatric ER for help
    they will likely be released after a few hours. Just yesterday someone was released from the psychiatric ER and was returned less than two hours later after slapping a woman in the face without provocation. The usual story, woman doesn’t press charges because the perpetrator is obviously mentally ill and needs help. Help that is not available.

  14. It seems like poor judgment on everyone’s part. Any info on Alex’s activities or contacts prior to going to the hill?

  15. This is a tragedy but I do not blame the cops, any more than I blame a train when someone jumps on the tracks. I wish peace to the family and they have my condolences. Mental health is not taken as seriously as it should be.

  16. First of all, I am really sorry for the loss of this family. From what I can tell, Nieto sounded like a good, although somewhat troubled, person. And granted, SFPD sounds like it has not handled some aspects of this situation well, and yes, there are plenty of bad apples in the police ranks.

    But all that said I have no idea how anyone can dispute the actions of the police especially after seeing the photos of the taser. It looks exactly like a handgun, for God’s sake. Instead of showing his hands, as is universal police procedure, when confronted by the police, HE POINTED WHAT APPEARED TO BE A DEADLY WEAPON AT THEM. What the hell else were they supposed to do but shoot, and shoot to kill, when he insinuated that he was just about to do the same? And what do you think would have happened if he had shot that taser at a child, dog, or anyone else walking on the hill (as he’d already done before to his former friend)? I can only imagine the outcry in that scenario: “Where was SFPD? Why didn’t they do anything?”

    As far as the alleged 14 shots, yes, that sounds excessive, but if there were three officers and they all fired four shots at the same time, that’s 12 right there. Again, not out of the ordinary for that situation.

    And, for what it’s worth, I happened to be walking on the hill at the time of the vigil, and as news crews were getting situated, I heard the family friend, Benjamin Bac Sierra, say to someone, off-camera, “I didn’t know the man, but …. ” Now, I don’t know whether he was talking about the deceased or not, but it caught my ear and was interesting to hear him say that, especially as he was acting as the family spokesperson. He also said more than once, to the group, “this man was killed for eating a burrito in a gentrified neighborhood” — which is, frankly, a load of crap. Nieto was acting erratically and had already threatened someone, actions that were on their own not enough to warrant calling police, perhaps, but (I’ll say it again), HE WAS ARMED WITH WHAT LOOKED LIKE A DEADLY WEAPON. It would have been irresponsible of anyone who had witnessed him acting that way not to call police.

    I do agree that incidents like this are evidence of why police should start wearing small, GoPro style cameras, as has been suggested. And again, I’m really sorry for this suffering family. But I am so tired of hearing the police get bashed all the time. Yes, they make mistakes like everyone else, and yes, there are bad ones. But they do not deserve all of this contempt and hate (like the people who said they wanted the cops to die at the hearing) they’ve received over this situation.

  17. What a tragedy. The poor guy was probably off his meds. The cops did what they are trained to do. No winners here. My heart goes out to his family.

  18. Are the police who were on the scene saying he actually put the red laser-sight dot on them, or was trying to? If that’s what happened, I would have to agree it’s suicide-by-cop. Tragic, but he didn’t give them a choice. Did any other witnesses see the laser dot?

      • News flash: cops lie. Folks want desperately to believe that Alejandro was waiving his taser around like a lunatic, but since right now all we have is the word of the officer who shot him, we cannot take that as a fact. Given the police dep’t’s behavior with Alejandro’s family, I suspect that they are lying about the red dot and the gun being waived around threateningly. They showed their colors when they went to Alejandro’s family: make sure it was justified.

    • If someone lights me up with a red dot laser, I would not think twice about neutralizing the threat – The police did the right thing.

  19. Two new witnesses approached Campos when he visited the Hill. A white couple told Campos they did not give the information to the police because they did not trust them. They saw Alex that Friday eating and showed no sign of erratic behavior. Looked calm and relaxed. Another witness on the news talked about seeing Alex calmly eating a burrito. One other witness reported that as he jogged up the hill a women was waving at everyone not to go up the hill that there was a man with a gun. That prompted calls to the police telling them a man had a gun. Police came charging up the hill with that information. They described him male, latino, wearing red shirt and has gun (gang affiliation in the minds of police) He was surrounded according to the Chief military style.

    I get emails from Bernal Safe group and go to police meetings. They always encourage everyone to call the police. I’ve also heard conversations between neighbors that the best way to get the police there is to say they see something shinny that could be a weapon. I think these groups and meetings need to re-evaluate as to how they apporache these situations. I think we as a community need to take some responsibility. What one person sees as danger is normal to someone else. Cultural differences and norms.

  20. Robot Stem: I posted in another thread some possible insight into Alex’s state of mind that night. My neighbor texted me around 5:30 Friday to say that a man was urinating on my garage door & she had stopped him. (I live on Andover North, just around the corner from the BHNC, upslope). Over the weekend, she saw pictures in the paper of ALejandro Nieto and realized it was him she had seen urinating on my door. He was acting very strangely & had some words with her that were not coherent. From this, & the fact that it is not common behavior to urinate in broad daylight on a garage door on a very busy block – I have to think something else was going with Alex that night. (assuming her ID is correct, which I believe it is). There are countless bathrooms on Cortland one can use, and my garage door is really very visible (nothing to hide behind). Why would he do that if not disturbed or high? Just a possible insight into behavior. No less a tragedy of course.

  21. this is an terrible loss and highlights how people with mental health issues are sidelined and often left to fend for themselves. That’s not just a failing with government; we as communities and families are responsible, too. I also think it’s an incorrect assumption that somehow the killing of Mr Nieto should be likened to gentrification issues, as if affluent people on Bernal are asking cops to gun down innocent people of color. Really, folks? you really believe that. Really? No matter what mr Nieto’s behaviors that night, with a string of armed robberies in Bernal just over a year ago, are people not supposed to be a bit wary? Are cops in general a bit trigger-happy? perhaps, they’re trained to be so in some aspects–however, this is not a redo of the Diallo tragedy.

    What’s the corollary to being ‘ho-hum’ about someone just walking around with a taser? Are we suddenly in favor of open carry laws? Hey, man, I’m just carrying a holstered weapon but don’t worry, it’s not a firearm, why are you suspicious? (?)

    I think the bigger issue in this case is not gentrification but gun culture meets a culture that sidelines people with mental health issues. Not a good mix. and it will not be easily remedied. Mr Nieto’s family and friends no doubt are angry and distraught but this is one case where the various techies on various buses are not to blame.

  22. What happened to this young man is a tragedy.

    But those of you who are blaming the gun culture have no idea what it means to responsibly own a firearm. You’ve allowed your politics to overwhelm your reason. You sound a lot like people who say that abstinence education is the right way to conduct sex education. You certainly don’t have the first clue about realities of ownership.

    It comes to this: anyone with even a smidgen of gun safety knowledge knows that every gun is always loaded, everything that looks like a gun *is* a gun, and that you don’t draw unless you mean to fire.

    Further: another key to ownership and safety is understanding how people will react when they see your weapon, especially if it’s in your hand. Civilians will get spooked. Police officers will almost certainly draw.

    Finally, and most importantly: firearms are only drawn with intent to shoot. A man or woman with a firearm in their hand and hand upraised – law enforcement or civilian – is not making a threat. The only reasonable conclusion is that person is making a promise.

    Likewise, police officers are making the promise in that situation too. They will shoot, and they are trained to shoot for center mass, to shoot to kill. They don’t shoot to warn. They don’t shoot to wound. They shoot for the biggest part of the target, the one that will stop the bullets and keep them from flying off to hit something or some one they’re not aiming at. They shoot and shoot quickly, to bring the situation to a close quickly. If the officer goes to the range with any frequency that can mean 4 or even 5 targeted shots in just a couple seconds.

    It sounds like this young man made a horrific miscalculation. He drew something that looked a lot like a gun, and pointed it at officers. From what I read here it had a laser sight that he put on one of those responders. If that last part is true I really can’t imagine what he was thinking.

    As I see it, if these stun guns are going to be sold to people with fewer controls than a firearm, they should look nothing like a firearm at all. But really there should be as many controls on these devices as there are on firearms. Maybe more. Background checks – and purchase bans for the mentally infirm or convicted felons.

    And there should be training. Real training. Real education. There are a lot of us who grew up around firearms simply can not believe how unbelievably ignorant people are about them and the way they are used. Likely that includes you, reader. It certainly includes the late Alejandro here, who – as a 28 year old adult strapped something very much like a handgun to himself and found out in the worst possible way there’s a cost to not being thoughtful and deliberate with one’s weapon.

    • Pretty compelling comment. I’m still not sure I believe that Alejandro drew his weapon and aimed it at the police, but the concept that a taser owner has less training and knowledge about firearms does suggest a possible scenario where Alejandro thought the right thing to do was to take the gun out of the holster and hold it up, or to drop it, and the police interpreted that as drawing the gun to fire. Just the possibility of this being the scenario here makes a strong argument for making tasers the same as firearms in terms of licenses, training, etc…

      • That’s a really interesting (and sad) scenario, and could be quite believable too. The particular Taser that Nieto had was designed to look very much like a gun, but the sides had large yellow painted areas so he could have been trying to show that it was a Taser not a gun, and could only do that by unholstering it.

        The one thing that gets me tho, is that the laser sight was reportedly turned on. According to this page about the Taser http://www.womenonguard.com/How-TASERs-Work.htm the laser sight comes on when the safety is turned off. In that case, why would have have turned the safety off? Maybe it was muscle memory or force of habit from practicing pulling the taser out of his holster and turning the safety off.

        It’s a shame that he chose a Taser that looks like a gun. If the whole taser was bright red or bright yellow, the police likely would have acted differently.

        Why someone would want a Taser that looks just like a gun is beyond me, but I’ve seen many security guards who want their tactical gear to look just like what the real cops have… for the intimidation factor.

        We should teach in schools how to behave when you’re confronted by police. Police have protocols, they seem to expect citizens to have protocols as well, but citizens often aren’t aware of this. (e.g. when you get pulled over, roll down your window, turn your engine off, put your hands on the top of the steering wheel where they’re visible to the office.)

        I only hope that by learning from what happened here more lives can be saved in the future. Preventing something like this from happening in the future should be the goal, not finding someone to blame.

    • Malcolm – one of the most intelligent comments posted!
      In almost any other state which allows open carry and people are not so paranoid about seeing guns, no one would have even thought twice to have called unless he was brandishing or threatening someone.

  23. Excellent points here, Malcolm. I really hope other people in this discussion who are so quick to blame the police and throw down the race card will read this.

  24. It seems like a really fundamental fact that police lie. If they beat someone up or shoot them, there will always a be a story that it was justified by something the beaten or shot person did. And all over the country police are using excess and often deadly force. I think everyone needs to reserve judgment about what Alejandro Nieto did, while knowing the police shot him dead. The answers are yet to come. But I know that in many places–including hospitals–non-violent strategies are used to talk disturbed people down.

    I also want to say that I find the initial encounter that led to calling the police disturbing. The young man was menaced by an out-of-control dog, and as the dog-owner told his story to the Chronicle, he clearly understated his and his dog’s inappropriateness and overstated the inappropriateness of Nieto’s reaction. Over the decades, I have been rushed and menaced by many large dogs with irresponsible owners in San Francisco parks, and I have to say I’ve considered mace and pepper spray. But I’m a fairskinned white woman; I don’t run the risks young men of color do. If the dog-owner had his dog under control and respected the personal space and well-being of others, the triggering incident might never have happened, he might never have phoned the police, and we might not be having this conversation

    • Agreed here. Most people on the blog seem to take the word of the officers that he pointed the taser at them. That may or may not be the case. But since he’s dead, we’ll never know the truth.

      • We’ll probably never know unless there were other witnesses. I sincerely don’t know if he pointed the taser at the cops. Two scenarios are plausible. People sometimes do have breakdowns and commit suicide-by-cop by threatening them with a weapon. And cops sometimes lie about the circumstances of a shooting to make their actions seem blameless.

    • Francisca,
      The Police do not have license on lying. Witness’es and suspects lie.
      People also tell the story from their perspective, a perspective which may lead to a wrong conclusion – because what they saw, felt or understood may not have been a complete picture, leading them to make an inappropriate decision or judgement. They are not lying – they simply arrived at the wrong conclusion based on what they were exposed to.

      The police put their lives on the line every moment of the day and to a certain extent even when off duty. It is real easy for us to now dissect every nano second after the fact from the comfort of our easy boy and in effect pick out the fly poop from the pepper granules. While the police had but a few short seconds to confront, access and react in this incident.

      There is a breakdown in society, where youth does not respect authority and many parents are not instilling these core values in their children. The appropriate thing to do is immediately become submissive, put your hands in the air, and drop to the ground face down with your hands and legs out. If you do not agree with the cause for concern or immediate outcome let your attorney sort it out later – but do your best to survive the moment by not posing a perceived threat. This is when you argue the merits of the stop or search, not in the heat of the moment when tempers are hot and emotions are high.

    • Saying something like “It seems like a really fundamental fact that police lie” would be like saying that all Australians like Nutella, and all French are rude, and all Americans wear white socks with sandals. That is an ignorant blanket statement and makes everything following that sentence impossible to take seriously.

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  26. This is such a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the family & friends of Alex for the loss of your loved one. After all those commenting on here have moved on & forgotten, you will still be grieving while being forced to relive the experience in court & through the media over & over again. Many comments posted blame him for his own death and I find this extremely inappropriate, insensitive & unfair. Not one single person doing this is qualified to do so, nor do you have all the facts. Why is it so difficult to admit that awful things can & do happen to decent people at the hands of police?
    I did not know Alex but I walk my dogs at BHP on Fridays and left just minutes before the tragic incident occurred. Last night at the very spot where his life ended, I met & spoke with a young man who was friends and classmates with Alex. He told me they studied Criminal Justice together at CCSF and that his friend was a practicing Buddhist. He suggested visiting the facebook page “Justice 4 Alex Nieto” and after doing so, I am left with impressions that Alex was a good, hard working guy, close to his family and someone who genuinely cared about his community. He was 28 years old with no criminal record, and in no way deserved to die in such a violent manner.

    I do not think justice for Alex is possible- not by a long shot. But it is possible for some good to come as a result of the worst tragedy.

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