SFPD internal affairs investigation released on high-profile Mario Woods shooting

San Francisco Police Department’s internal affairs investigation into the 2015 shooting death of Mario Woods was released Monday revealing what officers were thinking before and after opening fire on the 26-year-old stabbing suspect. The release was a result of a public records request by 2 Investigates and California’s new police transparency law that went into effect earlier this year.

“Before firing his firearm, it never crossed [the officer’s] mind to give a warning to Woods that he was going to shoot because he did not want to shoot him,” the report revealed about Officer Charles August who was first to encounter Woods.

“Officer August stated that he never thought he would have to shoot Woods, and up until the time he fired his weapon, believed Woods would drop the knife,” an investigator wrote.

According to the report, it took exactly 72 seconds from when officers encountered Woods in the Bayview district of San Francisco to when they opened fire, striking him 21 times. The responding officers said Woods did not comply with commands to drop his knife and they were forced to shoot when he came within 10 feet of one of the officers.

“Woods was closing the gap while still armed with the knife,” wrote investigators about their interview with Officer Winson Seto.

Several less than lethal methods were attempted before the shooting, the officers reported in the investigation. The methods included the deployment of rubber bullets, pepper spray and bean bag rounds. “Woods continued to brandish his knife did not surrender,” the report detailed.

The high-profile case prompted racially charged protests in 2016 where community members accused San Francisco police of implicit bias and excessive force.

The San Francisco County District Attorney’s Office did not file criminal charges against the five officers involved and the police department’s internal affairs investigation found the officers’ actions were within agency policies.

In 2016, SFPD invited the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a review of its agency. The investigation found 94 deficiencies including ineffective anti-bias training and a lack of transparency when it comes to disciplining officers.

Last May, the San Francisco Police Department provided an update on its progress since the review. SFPD has completed 11 out of the 272 original US DOJ recommendations. It prioritized 63 including ones focusing on Use of Force, Bias and Accountability. Contributing to the low completion number, according to SFPD, was the U.S. Department of Justice’s withdrawal from the process in 2017. The police department had to request the California Department of Justice to take over and, in essence, restart process.