SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco police released body-cam footage Friday of the officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of two men.
The shooting happened May 19 when officers responded to Mariposa and Owens Streets regarding an aggravated assault. The video shows the officers grouped together yelling demands at the two men fighting on the ground. With weapons drawn, officers continued to yell demands, then shots rang out, killing the two men.
The two men that died in the struggle were identified as Michael Macfhionghain, 57, and Rafael Mendoza, 49. Macfhionghain was declared dead at the scene and Mendoza was taken to the hospital where he died of his injuries.
Police say the incident started with a 911 call from a witness who said a homeless man was beating another man.
Four officers fired their weapons when the two men repeatedly failed to drop their knives, according to the police department.
"You told me he was attacking you-correct? I need you to drop the knife so we can sort this out," one officer is seen saying in the video. "We don't want to hurt you."
Police say they used non-lethal weapons first, such as firing a foam baton. But when one man appeared poised to stab the other, cops fired their guns. One man died immediately. The other succumbed to the gunshots at a hospital.
Three knives were found by police, they said.
"Without suggesting a premature judgment on the appropriateness of the force used in this particular incident, I can express on behalf of all of us in our department our condolences to the family friends, and loved ones of Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Macfhionghain," said Police Chief Bill Scott in a town hall meeting about the shooting.
The officers' actions have been criticized by some people.
"I was absolutely horrified to learn that SFPD officers shot and killed my client Mr. Mendoza," said SF Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, who represented Mendoza in a former case. "He was an unhoused father who lived a life of desperation. In all of my interactions with him, he was very sweet and gentle, even though his struggle to survive often entangled him in the criminal legal system for mostly petty and non-violent offenses."
She said the fact he died at the hands of police, who found him injured and being threatened by a man with a knife, was an inexcusable tragedy.
The Public Defender's office condemned the killings in a statement, saying the officers had weapons drawn on two injured men who were' largely frozen in combat under the same tarp on the ground.'
"None of the officers attempted to identify language access needs until very late in the incident," they wrote. "Although the initial force used was from beanbag projectiles, officers quickly escalated to lethal force. It was later confirmed that both men died from the gunshot wounds."
"The inability or unwillingness of police to truly de-escalate harmful situations remains a paramount concern for public safety in San Francisco," said Public Defender Mano Raju. "The answer to violence is not more violence."
The shooting is under investigation by the California Department of Justice's police shooting investigation team and other law enforcement partners. Once the investigation is complete, the California Department of Justice's special prosecutions section, which is inside the Criminal Law Division, will conduct an independent review.