SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco police held a virtual town hall meeting to discuss an officer-involved shooting that occurred in the city's Mission District earlier this month.
The altercation in the area of Shotwell and 18th streets on Aug. 6 involved Jose Corvera, 51, who was not injured during the encounter, though four different SFPD officers discharged their firearms, as Cmdr. Paul Yep pointed out during Monday's town hall.
Around 7:55 a.m. that day, officers on patrol saw Corvera on a bicycle pulling a second bike in tow.
According to Yep, a bicycle theft had been reported to the department, so the officers attempted to stop Corvera to question him.
The San Francisco Public Defender's Office released a statement after the town hall calling into question why Corvera, a man with mental health challenges, was stopped.
"The officers who stopped Mr. Corvera had not observed him commit any crime, and during today's police town hall, representatives of the SFPD only gave vague explanations for the stop without providing any evidence of a reported crime," the Public Defender's Office said.
Body-worn camera footage and video surveillance were presented to the public during the town hall, along with Yep's recounting of what police allege happened.
According to Yep, an officer identified as "Officer 1" attempted to pursue Corvera in the 300 block of Shotwell but saw what looked like a gun in his hand. Corvera can be seen on video surveillance holding a gun and also a photograph of him with the gun in his right hand was shared with the public.
The Public Defender's Office alleges that Corvera had a prop gun that fired blanks that he used for protection.
Corvera can be seen on footage crouching behind a red car and pointing the gun towards the officers, who parked their vehicle on the sidewalk and were using it as a shield as they pointed their firearms toward the suspect and commanded him to drop his weapon. At one point shots can be heard, allegedly coming from Corvera's gun, and the officers fired their weapons.
As the two officers continued to tell Corvera to drop his gun, he yelled back at the police. According to Yep, Corvera allegedly yelled, "Get out of here!" and "I don't want to see you."
Hostage and crisis experts were called in to try to get Corvera to drop his weapon and cooperate with police. Officers with rifles and shields took cover and aimed at the suspect, asking him to put down his gun and surrender. A negotiator began using his first name, Jose, and asking him how the police could help him.
Police ordered people in the area to shelter in place around 8 a.m. and a command center was set up to handle the scene logistically, Yep said.
Officers continued to warn one another that Corvera had a gun pointed at them and Corvera allegedly kept yelling, "Get out of here!" and "I don't need no help."
Officers discharged their firearms but no one was hurt.
Eventually Corvera tossed his gun into the street, but as he did so, it went off, police said. There is no sound on the surveillance video to confirm this, but sound from the officers' body-worn cameras has a gunshot and an officer saying, "It went off when he threw it."
Police moved in and took him into custody after that. He remains in custody and was booked on suspicion of assault on a police officer with a firearm, violently resisting arrest, brandishing a firearm in the presence of a police officer, possession of a firearm with intent to resist arrest, and carrying a loaded firearm in public.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the town hall was held to keep his department as "transparent" as possible, especially when an officer-involved shooting has occurred.
"We have no more solemn obligation than to respect the sanctity of life," he said.
Scott said that independent and departmental investigations into the case will be carried out as well.
The Public Defender's Office noted that Corvera was never arrested on suspicion of stealing a bicycle, the reason the police said they approached him in the first place.
"This appears to be an example of police relying on their own bias to initiate a stop of a man who was riding a bicycle and pushing another," the Public Defender's Office said. "Mr. Corvera is Latino, Limited English Proficient, and suffers from mental health challenges."
The Public Defender's Office said that the stop "instigated and escalated a situation which endangered the public, Mr. Corvera, and members of the SFPD."
"Thankfully, Mr. Corvera came away with his life. However, he remains traumatized, detained and is unfairly facing charges," the Public Defender's Office said. All of the footage from this encounter is available at sanfranciscopolice.org or at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuxpMs0f0C0.