SFPD to hold town hall on fatal shooting of homeless man

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) San Francisco police will hold a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss last week's fatal officer-involved shooting of a homeless man in the Mission District.

Police will provide an update to the public at the meeting on the investigation into the shooting, which occurred on Shotwell Street near 18th Street on Thursday just after 10 a.m.

Police shot Luis Gongora, 45, shortly after a San Francisco Public Health Department homeless outreach team reported a person waving a knife.

The team was visiting a homeless encampment on Shotwell where Gongora has lived in recent months, according to police.

Officers arriving on the scene shot Gongora with non-lethal beanbag rounds and ordered him to drop the weapon, a large kitchen knife, before firing at least seven shots, according to police. Gongora died at San
Francisco General Hospital shortly after the shooting.

Conflicting accounts have emerged about whether Gongora was armed. Some witnesses have confirmed Gongora was holding a knife at the time of the shooting, according to police, while other witnesses told reporters or police that he was wearing it strapped to his hip or that it was already on the ground.

In addition, other residents of the homeless encampment on Thursday said Gongora did not speak English well and may not have understood what police were saying to him. Police said Friday that one witness has said Gongora was able to converse in English.

Wednesday's meeting will take place at noon at 3271 18th St.

Last Friday, a day after Gongora’s shooting, Mayor Ed Lee renewed his calls for the removal of homeless encampments, which have sprung up in many parts of the city.

Lee has cited public safety concerns following Gongora’s shooting and prior to that, the previously existing encampment on Division Street under the freeway was declared a health nuisance.

Lee spokeswoman Christine Falvey said on Tuesday that the mayor plans a "compassionate response" that will include the offer of shelter and housing spaces and services for those being displaced. That could include spaces in the Navigation Center, a shelter linked to intensive services in the Mission District, or in new facilities planned to open in the Civic Center, Dogpatch and elsewhere.

In the days since Gongora's shooting, homeless residents on Shotwell Street and elsewhere have reported stepped up city cleanup efforts, orders to move and increased warrant checks by police.

Lee's remarks have left homeless advocates and residents worried about a further crackdown, according to Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness.
Friedenbach said sweeps "do not stop crime, but rather punish people for being poor and homeless."
"Cities are not going to ticket or displace their way out of homelessness, while human lives are shortened and lost," she said. "Housing is the only solution, and until then we must continue to protect the civil rights of all people."

Friedenbach said sweeps conducted in February and March to clear out encampments on Division Street and in the Showplace Square area disrupted the lives of homeless residents, destroyed their property and in many cases only moved the problem a short distance away, since there were not enough shelter beds for all residents.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, city Supervisor John Avalos called for the city to establish guidelines for the relocation of those living in the camps.
Avalos asked the city attorney to draft legislation that would require city officials to follow clearly established and "humane" procedures for the removal of homeless camps, provide notice, outreach and services to residents and work to provide housing for those being relocated.
"What I'm trying to do is set forth a standard to make sure that if we're going to be doing a sweep of a homeless encampment that we're going to be giving notice to the community and giving the community a plan for their relocation," Avalos said.

"We also want to make sure that we are not just moving people from one place to another but offering temporary or permanent housing."
Avalos' proposal was developed in conjunction with the Coalition on Homelessness.

Avalos' proposed guidelines would require city officials to provide 15 days’ notice to homeless camps residents before removal, conduct outreach to both homeless residents and neighbors and work with camp residents to create a relocation plan.
In addition, the city must identify permanent housing or provide temporary housing and a plan for transitioning to permanent units. If no housing is available, the guidelines would require the city to give those living in the camps an extension and work to provide needed services including bathrooms and garbage service until it becomes available.
The proposed guidelines also limit the hours when the city can conduct routine cleaning in homeless encampments, to avoid late night disturbances, establish rules for the removal and storage of property belonging to homeless people and require the city to provide bathroom and garbage services for camps of more than 30 people.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing and anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the San Francisco Police Department's homicide unit at (415) 553-1145.