SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco police held their required town-hall meeting after SFPD fatally shot and killed a man at San Francisco International Airport who allegedly brandished replica guns.
Police released video from the Jan. 20 incident, including police-worn, body-camera footage. The shooting of Nelson Szeto, 37, is being investigated by California State Attorney General Rob Bonta's office. Police are characterizing the event as a 'suicide by cop.'
At Monday's virtual presentation, SFPD Commander Paul Yep said, "At one point, Mr. Szeto told officers to shoot him." Yep continued to say Szeto said things like, "center mass," adding, "make sure you aim," and also, "Thank you for your service. I respect you guys." Yep said Szeto also apologized, stating several times that he was sorry.
Yep said officers reiterated that they did not want to shoot the man. Crisis negotiators worked to deescalate the situation. Police also used less than lethal ammunition before firing live rounds.
SFPD were initially called for reports of a man who was acting erratically just outside the international terminal's BART entrance.
Before the shooting, Szeto allegedly pulled out what appeared to be a real gun and a knife. The guns ended up being airsoft guns, which fire plastic pellets. These type of replica firearms normally have orange tips, but in this case they did not.
The department said Szeto had already placed one airsoft gun and the knife down when he was shot and killed by SFPD officers. Police said four officers opened fire when he raised one of those guns towards officers. Police show various angles from the incident.
Police have identified the involved SFPD officers as officers Erik Whitney, Oliver Lim, Steven Uang, and David Wakayama.
Officers are heard on the body-camera footage yelling "red light" before they open fire on Szeto, who then collapses to the ground after police fire shots. They then go into "render aid" mode and assist Szeto, who was said to be homeless.
"On behalf of all us at the department, our sincerest condolences to Mr. Szeto, his family, his friends, and his loved ones for the loss of life they've suffered," Police Chief Bill Scott said during the town hall meeting.
During public comment, a friend called in to humanize the shooting victim. She said Szeto went to Galileo High School, was an individual who was loved by many, and was a part of San Francisco's community. At one point, she said he worked for the city of San Francisco but that he had a mental break. She said Szeto volunteered at soup kitchens.
The California Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation and independent review, since the shooting is being investigated as an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed person, as an airsoft gun is not considered a deadly weapon.
"We will be the filing authority for any criminal charges related to officer-involved shootings, which we are the lead investigators," California DOJ Chief John Marsh said. "This investigation has just started."
In addition, the San Francisco Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability, and the San Mateo County Coroner's Office are all conducting their own investigations.
"It is too early to draw any conclusions. At this point, we just put the facts out," Scott said. "It is when the administrative and criminal investigations (are finished) when conclusions are drawn. And we can take whatever modifications, if anything, and move forward to make those modifications."
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 800-273-8255
Bay City News contributed to this report.