Court Update (Wed. 11/19/2014): City refuses to name 4 shooters, 8-10 officers present at shooting, and 20 officers responding to homicide scene

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As we previously informed, today was the first court date in the federal civil trial initiated on August 22nd, 2014 by Refugio & Elvira Nieto v City and County of San Francisco. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel M. Cousins presided the case management conference. The objective of this first case management conference is to establish deadlines for discovery and next court date, among other pretrial matters. Adante Pointer represented the Nieto Family, while Deputy Chief Attorney Margaret W. Baumgartner represented the defendants (the SFPD officers involved in the wrongful death and civil rights violations of Alex Nieto.)

CITY REFUSES TO NAME OFFICERS, REQUESTS PROTECTIVE ORDER

Deputy Chief Attorney Baumgartner argued that there was a threat made that impedes the City from revealing the names of the officers involved. Magistrate Judge Cousins required her to reveal how many names were involved. Deputy Chief Attorney Baumgartner responded that there were 4 shooters, approximately 8-10 other officers present at the shooting, and approximately 20 officers who showed up afterwards to the homicide scene. (She said she had not counted them exactly.)

0325-gregsuhrChief Greg Suhr made publicly known (Nov. 12th) that the “threat” consisted in comments made a near 8 months ago on social media by a person known to police and who they know lives outside the USA. This in our opinion does not count at all as a credible threat.

Deputy Chief Attorney boosted her argument by saying that another threat was “phoned-in” recently that cleared the station. (What station? When? Anybody hear about such a thing? Dare we guess, a phone call from outside the US? ) If this did happen, we request such actions not be made regarding the shooting of Alex Nieto. These “threats” are hurting the Nieto Family and Alex’s community by giving excuses to the City to be opaque.

Despite Adante Pointer pointing out that the Family and public had a right to this information and withholding the names of the officers was exceptional in cases of police shootings (even the Oscar Grant case), Magistrate Judge Cousins is allowing the Deputy City Attorney to present information about “the threat” in 14 days in order to decide on a protective order.

We are incredibly disappointed that Magistrate Judge Cousins is allowing the City to continue its campaign of obscurity to ward off public dissent. We are quite frankly tired of the bullshit tossed at the Nieto Family and affected communities.

4 SHOOTERS, 8-10 OTHER OFFICERS, AND 20 OFFICERS RESPONDING POST SHOOTING STILL TO BE NAMED

The number of shooting, witnessing and responding police officers bears repeating because it is new news to us. Besides the FOUR shooters who Chief Greg Suhr described at the Town Hall Meeting on March 26th, there were actually EIGHT to TEN OTHER OFFICERS WHO WITNESSED part or all of the shooting, because they were there during the shooting, plus about TWENTY OTHER OFFICERS who responded post-shooting to the homicide scene, and who themselves are active participants and witnesses to how the homicide scene was handled.

JUSTICE SYSTEM SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE: APPARENTLY ONLY RIOTS BRING TRANSPARENCY

We begin the federal civil trial with obscurity and delay, because discovery of facts can’t even begin if the family’s lawyer can’t know the names of the Defendants. He can’t even depose  officers or even read police reports if he is not allowed to know the names! This continued lack of transparency and accountability is an insult not only to the Nieto Family, but community members affected by Alex Nieto’s death, who have repeatedly and peacefully demanded the most basic facts of Alex’s shooting for nearly eight months.

This Friday November 21st, 2014 is Alex Nieto’s 8th month anniversary of homicide by police. That same day the Grand Jury in Ferguson will likely reach a conclusion and make public whether there will be an indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the homicide of Mike Brown, killed August 9th, 2014. Keep in mind that Mike Brown was killed only three months ago.

The killing of Mike Brown was met with community mobilization, resulting in mass civil disobedience, riots even, over days and days, and because there was mass public disturbance the City of Ferguson revealed the name of Officer Wilson within a week, and the Medical Examiner delivered Brown’s autopsy report within two weeks. Ferguson community members continued to pour out into the street instigating the intervention of the US Attorney General and the FBI in a federal investigation. Now three months after Mike Brown was killed, protesters are organizing for an outpouring of people in the streets, because news of a criminal indictment is forthcoming. Weapons sales have skyrocketed in Ferguson in preparation!

Meanwhile, over here in San Francisco, nearly eight months later, the City is still withholding the names of the officers involved because someone on the internet made a threat…. ON THE INTERNET!

Meanwhile, over here in San Francisco, cricket sounds are still coming out of the Office of the District Attorney, who will likely disrespectfully blindside us with a disappointing announcement any day now… Any day now we are also still waiting for the FBI or the US Attorney General to respond to our petition for a federal investigation into the death of Alex Nieto. Nearly eight months have passed since Alex was killed and we have received minimal responses. The only explanation is that we are not taken seriously, because we did not riot…

Like in Ferguson, Justice for Alex Nieto supporters engaged in mass civic protests from the very beginning, but without a single case of violence or even an arrest, not even a freakin’ broken window at a march. Admittedly, Cortland Street residents got a little disgruntled when a sidewalk stencil appeared on the street. Besides that, each protest march and public event has been peaceful, law abiding, squeaky clean when permits were required, and marches accompanied by community security volunteers who helped moderate any conflict along the way.

Each month on Bernal Hill, neighbors, artists, educators, youth, seniors, dogs, friends, and family show up to peacefully remember Alex and stand for justice in his name. Every month on Bernal Hill we go to say that Alex Nieto has not been forgotten.

Nevertheless, the City is arguing that a threat made by someone who does not even live in this country is reason enough to withhold the most basic facts:

  • Who shot Alex Nieto?
  • Who witnessed his shooting?
  • Who witnessed how the crime scene was handled?
  • How do police explain the shooting?
  • What was the content of the actual 911 call?

The experience in Ferguson is teaching that a  community’s regard for law in the face of egregious injustice is absolutely meaningless when the injustice is committed by officers of the law.

To Magistrate Judge Cousins: We are counting on you to do the right thing and respond with a policy of transparency to the largest peaceful urban mobilization ever seen in San Francisco for the killing of a city native, Alex Nieto. Put an end to the City’s policy of bullshitting communities harmed by Alex’s homicide by SFPD officers, and set a precedent that prizes peaceful civic dissent to a police shooting with utmost transparency of facts and process.

2014.8.22 March

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