[Pnews] “Why Did Police Kill Our Son?” - The San Francisco Police Dept.'s Blue Code of Silence

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 5 12:09:52 EST 2014


Weekend Edition December 5-7, 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/05/why-did-police-kill-our-son/

*The San Francisco Police Dept.'s Blue Code of Silence*


  “Why Did Police Kill Our Son?”

by CARL FINAMORE

The parents of 28-year old Alex Nieto are tired of police refusing to 
release information explaining why their son was killed by San Francisco 
police on March 21, 2014. “The police have been stonewalling us by 
withholding basic information. It can only be considered a cover up,” 
family attorney Adante Pointer told me.

It’s true. The police have not released a witness list, not released a 
pertinent 911 call, not released the police reports and not released the 
names of officers involved.

This makes an independent investigation impossible. As a result, Pointer 
filed a federal wrongful death civil lawsuit in August that would 
require police to stop withholding pertinent information.

“Alex’s community deserves to know who killed him. Officers are public 
servants, not a secret force in a neighborhood,” community activist 
Adriana Camarena emphasized to me.

Nobody is interested in where they live or other private personal 
information “but we do want to know their record of interaction with the 
community and their role in the homicide of Alex Nieto.”

Police accountability begins with transparency, she added.

Naming the officers involved is truly extremely relevant. For example, 
the named chokehold murderer of Eric Garner had two recent civil rights 
lawsuits filed against him – according to a CNN legal analyst, one was 
settled by the city for $30,000 in 2013 and the other is still pending.

Fortunately, a Dec. 3 “Justice for Alex” community picket line at San 
Francisco’s Federal Courthouse received their first good news when a 
judge agreed with the family by denying a request from the City for an 
unusually restrictive protective order that would further conceal from 
the public the names of all officers at the homicide scene.

Attorney Pointer expects the police to resort to delaying legal 
procedures but the family will not stop, he says, until the relevant 
information is made public.

*Case Facts*

Nieto was surrounded by a small army of police officers and met with a 
hail of bullets while walking down a hill after treating himself to an 
early evening sunset dinner while leisurely sitting on a neighborhood 
park bench.

Supporters insist there is absolutely no evidence 
<http://justice4alexnieto.org/author/j4an/> Alex posed any threat. He 
was dressed for his security guard shift and just about to leave for his 
job when his body was riddled by 15 bullet wounds in two separate volleys.

Police Chief Greg Suhr explained at a Town Hall meeting in late March 
that Alex was first shot down to the ground but still alive. Only then 
did officers release the fatal second volley of shots.

The Medical Examiner’s autopsy report also states that eleven out of the 
fifteen bullet wounds are downward trajectory shots.

Supporter’s believe, therefore, that the four upward trajectory wounds 
were the first to be delivered by officer’s facing uphill where Alex was 
located, whereas the second round of shots are all fired in a downward 
trajectory when Alex would have been on the ground, wounded and defenseless.

Clearly, the family deserves an explanation.

*Does Alex Fit the Police Profile of an Aggressor?*

Nieto was a well-regarded Latino community organizer who very publicly 
urged peaceful resolution of conflicts to troubled neighborhood youth 
consistent with his Buddhist beliefs and practices.

“Alex was humble and peaceful and wanted to be one with everyone. He 
sure helped me when I was going through my teenage troublemaking 
episodes,” his good friend and fellow Buddhist Ely Flores recalled.

Given Alex’s character, police claims that he was the aggressor has 
shocked the Latino community who “are also up in arms over police 
mistreatment of the family,” as attorney Pointer describes.

For example, Alex’s parents were not informed of his death until the 
next day and only after being interrogated by police who also wanted to 
search their home without a warrant. The parents refused to allow the 
search but were peppered by numerous personal questions about Alex until 
they were rather summarily informed at the last moment that their son 
was dead.

Ignoring  the family once again, police officers on the following day 
used the keys taken from Alex’s body to drive away with his car, without 
notifying the family and without a warrant. They stripped searched the 
vehicle and took Alex’s iPad, returning the damaged property only after 
community up roar at the Town Hall meeting in March.

Such callous disregard for the family has not gone down well and, along 
with the stonewalling of vital information, explains widespread 
community suspicions.

*Class, Race & Excessive Force*

There is an alternative to the police scenario painting Nieto as the 
aggressor. It is a storyline where, once again, the toxic triad of race, 
class and excessive force seems to have colluded.

For example, Alex’s Bernal Heights’ neighborhood is changing rapidly and 
considerably. Redfin, a national real estate brokerage firm, just voted 
it the number one sought-after neighborhood in the entire country.

Formerly part of the working-class Latino district of San Francisco, 
millionaires are rapidly buying up properties.

Did a young, large, working class Latino man eating his dinner on the 
hills of Bernal Heights, with one of the most “sought-after” city views 
in the nation, stand out as a troubling figure for the so-far anonymous 
911 caller?

This is not so far-fetched.

Episcopal priest, Father Richard Smith, Ph.D., serves the neighborhood 
Latino community and has seen these forces at work. What I am seeing is 
eerily similar to what I saw during my recent visit to Ferguson, he told me.

And, he added, just as with Michael Brown, San Francisco police released 
misleading information on Alex’s character even as they refused to 
disclose information on the officers involved.

But there are also some factors distinct to San Francisco where 
“displacement and gentrification is a big deal,” he said. “For example, 
I have seen police ramp up their presence and hassle and shoo away 
impoverished residents from public spaces that are currently being 
considered for big condominium developments.”

Bernal Heights is at the center of these changes. It is ground zero for 
displacement and gentrification. Perhaps traditional Latino residents of 
Bernal Heights like Alex now stand out as suspicious troublemakers to be 
shooed away.

*Police Version Doesn’t Add Up*

Did the police also rush to judgment when they came upon Alex who was 
dressed for work as a security guard with his holstered and licensed 
Taser? Why didn’t the police see the Taser’s distinctive black and 
yellow coloring?

Police dispatch informed officers to look for a man with a holstered 
weapon “at his hip” who is “eating sunflower seeds or chips.” The Taser 
is never described as drawn, nor Alex as threatening.

Police claim they never saw the Taser’s labeled coloring. Well, the 
bright coloring on the Taser would certainly have been more difficult 
for the police to see from their reported 75 feet distance, if the Taser 
was indeed holstered.

This is precisely the witness testimony in the family lawsuit – Alex at 
no time posed a threat according to this witness. He at no time took the 
Taser from his holster, at no time pointed it at police and at no time 
made any move to grab it.

Of course, pointing a Taser at dozens of police aiming guns at you would 
have not only been truly irrational but also out of character for Alex. 
In addition, a Taser is only effective within 15 feet and the police 
claim to have fired their first rounds at 75 feet.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Civil Rights’ attorney Pointer doesn’t expect police misconduct to 
change anytime soon. This makes more sense.

There are ingrained and deeply entrenched race and class prejudices that 
permeate our whole society. More than personal change is required such 
behavioral training of individual cops and cameras on their chest.

One such institutional transformation that hopefully makes it into the 
very important national conversation would be Black and Latino community 
control of police in their communities. Local democratically elected 
boards would replace downtown control by the 1% establishment.

It’s a revival of a still very relevant idea from the Black Panther 
Party platform of the 1960s.

In the meantime, Pointer tells me, “I don’t want anyone to be above the 
law, police included.”

/*Carl Finamore* is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, 
AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781 at yahoo.com 
<mailto:local1781 at yahoo.com>/

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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