SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU and Wires) – Four San Francisco police officers involved in a fatal Bernal Heights officer-involved shooting will not face charges and acted in self-defense, prosecutors announced Friday.
The San Francisco District Attorney's Office said Sgt. Jason Sawyer, Officer Richard Schiff, Officer Roger Morse and Officer Nathan Chew acted "lawfully in self-defense and in the defense of others when they discharged their weapons" toward 28-year-old Alejandro "Alex" Nieto in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood in March 2014.
The DA's investigators found a total of 48 bullet casings located at the scene, 45 scattered around the patrol cars and three inside one of the cars.
An autopsy on Nieto's body found that he suffered as many as 15 gunshot wounds from as few as ten bullets.
According to Police Chief Greg Suhr, a call came in to police at 7:11 p.m. on Mar. 21 reporting a man at Bernal Heights Park wearing a bright red jacket with what looked like a black handgun on his hip who was pacing by a chain link fence near a bench.
The caller described a man with his hand resting on what looked like a gun. Officers arrived at the park within minutes and encountered Nieto with what they believed to be a gun in a holster, Suhr said.
He was standing about 90 feet away from them with his back against the setting sun.
According to Suhr, when police asked Nieto to show his hands, he said, "You need to show your hands."
Suhr said Nieto pointed his weapon – a Taser equipped with a laser sight -- at several officers, prompting them to fire multiple rounds at him. Nieto was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Both officers were certain that Mr. Nieto had drawn a firearm and was about to shoot one or both of them," the DA report said. "Officer Schiff said he believed if he did not fire at Mr. Nieto he could be died within seconds."
The report said Morse and Chew opened fire when they arrived on the scene and saw Nieto pointing his weapons at their fellow officers.
"Both officers began firing at Mr. Nieto to protect themselves and other officers," the report concluded.
The report said the Taser was found near Nieto's body and it appeared to have been discharged. Two canisters of pepper spray were also found as was a pair of handcuffs in Nieto's back pockets.