Bloodshed in Bernal Heights

The police shooting of Alejandro Nieto leaves a community in shock

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rebecca@sfbg.com

On Friday morning, March 21, the day that Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers, he went to the gym with his friend Byron Pedroza. It was something they did often, Pedroza said; the two of them had signed up for gym memberships together. "He'd be like, 'B, get up. Let's go work out.'"

Nieto and Pedroza had met at El Toro nightclub, where Nieto worked as a security guard for nearly two years. The club, which attracts Latino clientele and hosts live performances on Mondays, has tight security: There are several guards equipped with Tasers.

"He was the type of person who'd help me a lot," Pedroza said. "Thanks to him, I went to college," enrolling at City College of San Francisco.

Nieto was a semester away from completing his degree in administration of justice. He was studying on scholarship, in pursuit of his goal to become a youth probation officer. Nieto drove a '95 Chevy Caprice — an old police car, Pedroza said — and they fixed it up together.

Ramiro Del Rio, Nieto's co-worker at El Toro, described him as punctual and considerate. He'd seen Nieto in stressful situations before, when dealing with drunk and rowdy bar patrons. "He was very calm," Del Rio said of Nieto. "He would always want to talk to the person without using aggressive force."

Nieto favored juice and soda instead of alcohol, he said, but after he started working out, "it was straight water." Also, "He was Buddhist."

 

HIS WORK TASER

Nieto had been scheduled to work that night, March 21. Instead, he was killed in Bernal Heights Park from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by rounds fired by at least four officers. It's unknown exactly how many bullet wounds Nieto sustained; friends said they believed at least 14 rounds had been fired.

As of March 31, the San Francisco Medical Examiner still had not released autopsy results. The officers involved had been placed on paid leave. Nieto's community remained stunned by his sudden death, staging a march through the Mission the following weekend to protest what they viewed as an unjust use of deadly force.

According to a transcript from a 911 call placed minutes before the shooting, which Police Chief Greg Suhr read aloud during a March 25 public meeting at Leonard Flynn Elementary School held to discuss the incident, officers opened fire within three and a half minutes of arriving at Bernal Heights Park.

Police were responding to calls reporting a man "with a gun on his hip. A black handgun," according to the call record, which Suhr read aloud. Police did not reveal the identity of the caller, but noted that the caller was not a police officer.

A neighbor who declined to be named told the Bay Guardian that shortly before the shooting, two men walking down the pedestrian pathway on the park's north slope alerted a jogger of a man ahead with a gun on his hip. The jogger, who came within 50 feet of the man, reported noticing that he was "pacing back and forth" and "air boxing."

The person who phoned 911 also initially reported seeing a man pacing back and forth. But minutes later, the anonymous caller reported to 911 dispatchers, "He is eating chips ... but resting his hand on the gun."

In reality, there was no gun — it was Nieto's Taser, carried in a holster. Friends who spoke at a March 24 vigil said they believed Nieto had headed up there to eat a burrito while looking out at the city from the top of the hill, a place he often went to clear his head.

A sergeant from the Ingleside station and other police officers arrived at the scene minutes after receiving reports of a man with a gun, Suhr said at the public meeting. Police faced Nieto from a distance of about 75 feet, up a hill.

Comments

The guy was crazy and armed, by all accounts.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

If a cop stops you and you draw something gun-like out of a holster and point it at the cop, the cop, if properly trained, should shoot you immediately, in your torso, and keep shooting until you fall down.

Anyone who's sane and who has proper weapons training should know that if they're stopped by cops while carrying any weapon, the first thing they should do is put their hands on their head, and the second thing they should do is tell the cop, calmly, "I don't want to alarm you officer, but you should know that I am carrying a weapon, and it is located at X point on my body."

If someone points what appears to be a firearm at a cop, the cop needs to fire immediately because if they don't, they could easily end up being killed. Most cops who are murdered on the job don't even get a shot off, they're taken by surprise because their killer acts first.

It takes at least two seconds of reaction time for a trained armed person to identify a threat, draw a gun, aim and fire. Because of training, that entire two seconds, after the decision to fire is made, is muscle memory, very hard to abort. In that two seconds, the person who's pointing a weapon at the cop can fire accurately at any time, because they already have their gun out and aimed.

This story is not about bad cops. It's about good cops who killed someone in a tragic circumstance that could've been avoided if Nieto had proper training and/or access to mental health care.

Oscar Grant was murder. Nieto wasn't. Kelly Thomas was murder. Kenneth Harding wasn't. When will idiot liberals realize that it is possible for cops to kill someone and for that killing to be justifiable?

Posted by Dave on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 10:23 am

I have many friends that are police officers. Not just casual, but come over hang out, real friends. I was also friends with Alex.
I understand the reaction time. I agree with you regarding the seconds that cops have in order to abort shooting, or avoid death. It is a tragic occurrence.

I must say that there are assumptions being made:
1)alex did not have a mental health issue. (hence being licensed and checked with the state to be a security officer). If you speak with any of his close friends that dealt with him on a daily basis.. you would get the same story.. No mental health issue.

2)Did alex really point the weapon at officers?
Im told there is an eye witness.
Dave lets please reserve judgement until all facts are in.
I would say even though im not a liberal.. to say idiot liberals is not helpful in this sad situation.

Posted by Guest Im not a liberal on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

Their story says Nieto pulled on them

Where is the counter evidence?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

I'm sorry "Guest I'm not a liberal" but you're wrong on the mental health issues. During the community meeting last week, Chief Suhr told the audience that Nieto was precluded from owning a firearm due to "mental health issues". That means there had to have been DOCUMENTED cases of mental problems.

Having mental issues also doesn't preclude you from owning or carrying a stun gun (make of that what you will). The only prohibitions on carrying a taser are if you are a convicted felon, drug addicts, and people who have misused it in the past. Also, was he a security guard with a "guard card"? Or was he just a security guard hired by the venue?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

I recommend the staff of the Guardian take a police firearms course and learn how easy it is for cops to get killed if they hesitate. Getting killed is not their obligation.

Posted by Dave on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 10:25 am

Their chosen profession mandates they take that risk. Not shoot first. Their primary goal is to protect the public. Just because some person is armed is not a threat.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

brandished at a cop. Everyone knows that's a zero tolerance thing.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

Well, look...Rebecca's job isn't to provide both sides of the incident, she gets paid to tell a story that stirs up anger and emotions against the police.

For example she writes "In reality, there was no gun — it was Nieto's Taser".

A taser is a gun. A stun gun to be precise. It is a lot more dangerous that a glue gun but waving any gun at police officers often leads to tragedies like this.

Rebecca spends a lot of words telling us what a peaceful guy Nieto was and she should be commended for mentioning the restraining orders even though they do not support her side of the story. But she leaves out the part about a woman complaining that Nieto had pointed the taser at her dog just before the tragic shooting.

But, by all accounts, a lot of people really loved Nieto and this is really a tragedy all around. The SFBG biased 'reporting' is meaningless, and poorly done, as usual.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 11:00 am

A white cop kills a hispanic guy, and that is really all they see. They simply assume the shoot was bad.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 11:24 am

As a community worker, former case manager, former bartender, still martial artist (since I was 11-now almost 30) and as person who enjoys going to the shooting range and was taught how to shoot at the age of 16 as well as some one who was very active in revising the Community Policing General Order, back in 2011. I feel that the police officers need better people skills. I have been treated poorly by police officers after I was the one that experienced a crime, I've had police officer completely disrespect my co-workers and youth at the Excelsior Teen Center that is now more of a senior center... And a lot of that reason was due to my inability keep my youth safe, and not safe from bad people in their community but safe from the police. I'm not saying their aren't dangerous situations, I have been the target of several crimes from robbery to burglary and at a point in my life I've also been the one to commit crimes that I've had to pay for. But point is as a person of these experiences I know there are ways to address difficult situations with out weapon. And unfortunately I am more afraid of the police in my community than I am of strangers that " look" scary.

The handling of the Alex Nieto tells me there is a problem with police training. The lack of action towards accountability by SFPD tells me there is a character flaw in the virtues of SFPD.

And as we move forward,I want to see the media ask more questions as to how we all chose to create and uphold justice in this city.

Posted by Leah Weitz on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 11:26 am

they have always been civil and co-operative with me.

It all has to do with your approach to them. a lot of folks act badly towards the cops and they are quick to turn nasty. But if you treat them with respect, they respect it back to you.

Of course, a guy like Nieto pulling a weapon on them is an extreme case, and this shoot was good. But cops are fine if you have nothing to hide and just treat them in a decent manner.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 11:41 am

I agree respect gets respect. And we are all building towards a greater culture of respect (I would hope) but unfortunately due to my own personal experience there needs to be a process of healing before I feel safe giving my full trust to the PD and I'm sure some of them feel the same way towards me. And as former criminal justice major I can honestly say that I was uncomfortable with how I was being taught how to view communities of people ie: immigrant communities, youth, urban.

As an adult I'm coming to understand the importance of calm communication free of prejudgment so that there is hope for peaceful resolutions in the face of adversity. Unfortunately other people don't often come to the table with that same mind set, and conflict still needs to be comfronted.

I still want to see more effort on the SFPD's behalf on changing the culture around violent resolutions. I know many community workers that defuse conflicts with out weapons.

Posted by Leah Weitz on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

a young black male. The better question is whether we can understand why that is.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

With extraordinary power must come extraordinary accountability.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

him out of harm's waty, and did not.

They took out RO's to protect themselves from his lunacy, but didn't care enough about the rest of us to alert the authorities and save his life

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

NIETO DIDNT, AND WOULD NEVER POINT A WEAPON AT A OFFICER. SUPER FRIENDLY PERSON. HE WAS COOL, CALM, AND FUN TO BE AROUND. SOMTHING DOESNT ADD UP AND OR, IS BEING HIDDEN FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

R.I.P HOMIE

Posted by LEWY. on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

but the eye witness accounts and TRO's tell another story

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

Any idea how many civilians have been killed by the SFPD since 2003? The number is 33, but you don't learn this fact here. The Guardian might put this death of Nieto in the larger context of how folks have been fatally shot by the cops over the years.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

I do NOT believe that Alex pointed his taser at police. Why should we believe that he did, bc that's the responding officers' story?

I didn't know Alex well, but just in the couple instances I was privileged to interact with him, he did NOT come across as someone with a mental illness.

The police admitted that they messed up - they THOUGHT Alex had a gun so they shot more than 10 times and killed Alex within, according to the police, THREE AND A HALF MINUTES of arriving. Immediately afterwards they should have realized/learned that Alex was NOT a threat and there should be no reason to further investigate him, especially since he has no criminal history. However, they still tried to interrogate Refugio, searched Alex's car, and searched Barrera Estrada's house, BUT why?

Perhaps they were looking for something (a gun) to either use to paint a bad picture of Alex OR plant evidence against him to justify what they'd done... either way there was no reason to investigate HIM, yet they stalled their explanation of the tragic event and did so anyway!

How can they justify shooting and killing Alex within THREE AND A HALF MINUTES of arriving?!! Why did they treat him as a threat when he had not threatened anyone? Did the police respond with the belief that Alex was threat and treat him as such simply bc he was brown? Would they have acted differently if the caller left that oh so important detail out?

I think the caller shares in some blame for making Alex seem dangerous. The caller only ASSUMED it was a gun in Alex's holster, so why did they report it as GUN? The officers claim they would not have used lethal force had they known Alex possessed a Taser instead of a firearm. And who are we to judge what "erratic" or abnormal behavior is? He could have been pacing because he was thinking, air boxing - exercise, or how about rehearsing for something? The caller was quick to judge (probably bc Alex was brown) since the caller felt the need to say a latino man (sort of implies the caller is not latino). Some dogs can be scary - if your dog is coming at me, I don't know what to expect and it's my right to protect myself from injuries.

Now, the RO's... how credible are the people who obtained the orders? What's the other side of the story - Alex's side? What led up to the event described in the RO? Why did Alex obtain an RO against the man who later obtained one against Alex?

Finally, has the ME's report been released? How many times was Alex hit and more importantly where are the entrance wounds?

It is good news to hear that there was an eye witness - I can't wait to hear what he/she observed. Hopefully, it will answer the many questions we all have. Also can't wait for the civil suit to be filed and progress - officer depositions!

Justice for Alex!!

Posted by Suspicious in AZ on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 11:01 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

Look at the bigger picture, Guest. Cover up? I think so! If not, explain why further investigation was necessary.

Has there been direct accounts directly from the officers involved released to the public? Nope, there's a summary by the chief of police. Do you know what each individual officer has said? Or whether they've been pressured to say what they have? Don't act as though crooked cops, who behave and think as though they are somehow superior to other people don't exist. I've come in contact with some here in AZ.

The truth will only be revealed once these officers and witnesses (hoping there are some) are deposed and really grilled about it.

Posted by Suspicious in AZ on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 3:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

The caller was absolutely justified in thinking he had a gun. What would YOU think if you saw someone with a weapon in a holster on their hip, shaped like a gun, with a black pistol grip showing? This isn't Arizona. Do you know how many CCWS issued by SF? Around FIVE (and one is to Dianne Feinstein).

Of course the police treated him as a threat. When they get a report of a person with a gun, they are obviously going to take every precaution. Anyone with a modicum of common sense doesn't make any sudden movements (let alone draw a pistol-shaped object from a holster) with cops pointing their firearms at them. You keep your hands up, follow all their commands, and make no sudden movements.

I once had cops pull their guns on me and my friends because they got a call that we had a gun (we didn't). We complied with all their orders, they checked us, told us why they were stopping us, and sent us on our way. And before you say it, no I'm not white.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

Is the weapon really concealed if it's in a holster? Btw, I'm aware that there's a much more of a process to get a license to carry in CA than AZ. AZ actually cares about our constitutional right.

As a security guard Alex MAY have had a license to carry, but the caller didn't know that... what's the difference if it had been an off-duty cop, carrying - would he too have been a threat?!

So just having a gun means your dangerous - wow that's ridiculous! If he was just minding his own business eating and enjoying the park just like everyone else; the caller should have minded his/hers.

Oh and it's funny that you assume I'm a guy.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 6:04 am

"concealed carry" if it is not.

You need a permit in Sf for a concealed carry, but open carry is OK as long as the weapon is not loaded. Not a good idea though, as we saw here.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:37 am

Actually "open carry" isn't legal in CA either. The CA legislature banned "open carry" a year or two ago.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

"As a security guard Alex MAY have had a license to carry, but the caller didn't know that." That's the whole point. The caller(S) didn't know that. From all the reports coming out (from both the police and his family), it doesn't sound as if he was in uniform or was even wearing one of those "SECURITY" t-shirts.

And there were multiple calls about him. One caller said he was carrying what the caller thought was a pistol in a holster. Another person called to say that he had pulled what she thought was a pistol on her and her dog. Another reported a person acting "erratically". Whether or not they should have "minded their own business" is a completely separate and unrelated issue (except for the person who felt threatened because she said that he pulled a pistol on her and her dog). The police were responding to multiple calls of an armed person who had threatened someone. How were they supposed to respond?

You say it's much easier to get a CCW in AZ than here in CA. What do they teach you on how to respond to police when you are carrying?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

My point exactly - the caller assumed that Alex wasn't supposed to/allowed to have a weapon... why I wonder. As to him pointing a taser at a dog - dogs can be dangerous and cause serious injuries; I for one am afraid of some and if I feel threatened by one coming at me, I would use whatever I have in defense, especially if the owner was doing nothing to prevent an attack. There weren't any reports of him pointing anything at or threatening any PEOPLE.

By the way have you heard these so called calls? I haven't and won't believe the hear-say on them until I do.

How were they supposed to respond? Have you heard the latest? One shot fired, 4 second pause... another shot fired and then another long pause... then about 10 more shots. Consistent with the chief's description of what happened? I doubt it. IF they had believed Alex had a gun pointed at them they would have shot with no pauses. I'd like to hear this recording also.

You still haven't explained why the officers would have reason to interrogate family/friends AND search a car or premises once they realized Alex was not a threat.

In AZ you respond as you would any other place. The officer questions you, you ignore or state you do not agree to any questioning. If he continues, you ask if you are being arrested for anything. If not, be on your way because there's no reason for the continued "investigation".

In Alex's case - how did they approach him? Did they ask if he had a gun? Did they tell him they had received calls about him with a gun? Or, did they just surprise him with weapons drawn?

Posted by Suspicious in AZ on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

ca penal code 25400

(b) A firearm carried openly in a belt holster is not concealed
within the meaning of this section.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 10:05 am

CA Penal Code 26350 - A person is guilty of openly carrying an unloaded
handgun when that person carries upon his or her person an exposed
and unloaded handgun outside a vehicle while in or on any of the
following:

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

Does anyone really believe what cops say? All fucking thugs with guns. I trust not one of those fucking pigs. To me the fucking system is so corrupt, so fucked up, so absolutley rigged you have to be fucking insane, stupid, or fucking retarded to think this fucking corrupt system is about justice. Wake up you sheeple fucks, America has been in the last few years only for those with money. And whites are now the hunted, this guy might have been of color, but we would not even be reading about this is he was white. But he is sacred man of color, so we all need to be on bended knees braying for forgiveness. Whatever, money is all that matters, this nation is now shit, full of turd world vampire fucks and a society of niggerized drones. Obama, Kardashian, Jay-Z and ignorant fucks, whose sole purpose is to bullshit, steal, rape, rob and con whites. Fuck all of you, I gave up giving a shit long ago, life now is fantastic, I just act like a nigger, take what I want, fuck over people, and act like a victim, and life is easy. I gave up giving a fuck, when this fucking drone society elected a racist white hating nigger.

Posted by John on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

Does anyone really believe what cops say? All fucking thugs with guns. I trust not one of those fucking pigs. To me the fucking system is so corrupt, so fucked up, so absolutley rigged you have to be fucking insane, stupid, or fucking retarded to think this fucking corrupt system is about justice. Wake up you sheeple fucks, America has been in the last few years only for those with money. And whites are now the hunted, this guy might have been of color, but we would not even be reading about this is he was white. But he is sacred man of color, so we all need to be on bended knees braying for forgiveness. Whatever, money is all that matters, this nation is now shit, full of turd world vampire fucks and a society of niggerized drones. Obama, Kardashian, Jay-Z and ignorant fucks, whose sole purpose is to bullshit, steal, rape, rob and con whites. Fuck all of you, I gave up giving a shit long ago, life now is fantastic, I just act like a nigger, take what I want, fuck over people, and act like a victim, and life is easy. I gave up giving a fuck, when this fucking drone society elected a racist white hating nigger.

Posted by John on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

"cops are fine if you have nothing to hide and just treat them in a decent manner."

That's it right there. When it comes to people that risk their lives and wellbeing to keep strangers safe, I put cops above firefighters. I firmly believe that if you are not breaking the law, are not rude, and you are honest, then you will be treated with equal respect. Cops have one of the most difficult jobs in existence. They go to work knowing full well that their are people on the streets who wish them dead. They are constantly lied to and constantly accused of mistreatment.
Despite what some people may believe, living with the knowledge that you shot and killed someone who was armed with a non lethal weapon, must be an awful burden to bare. That guilt will follow them to the grave, as it would with any civilized person. Think for a moment how you would feel knowing that you ended a life because you were wrong in your split second judgment that your life, and the lives of those around you, were in immediate jeopardy. If that wasn't enough, you took the life of someone who was obviously loved and a productive member of society. For good measure, lets have the people you are sworn to protect post comments in the local newspaper that portray your actions as malicious, thoughtless, and unprovoked.
Saying that "cops know the risks that come with the job" and "they should have waited to confirm it was a gun" doesn't fly with me. We put them in a position that demands 100% of our trust yet from day 1 of their careers they are suspected of taking advantage of that trust. Every day they are targets, literally and metaphorically. Next time you see someone getting arrested, look around and count how many people have their camera phones out and running. How many of those people filming do you think, are secretly hoping for another "Oscar Grant" that they can capture on their phone and sell to the highest bidder? Those are the same people who are really pulling for the cops to be unjustified, punished, and condemned simply because they hate the cops. Could we even say that the "F-K the police" crowed like dude up above and the author of the article/editorial see this as an opportunity rather then a tragedy? That in itself is a sad commentary on our society and I hope its not the case.
Its a horrible incident without winners and serves only to fuel an unproductive fire.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 8:23 am

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