San Francisco's police chief to ask officials for Tasers

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 11:56 PM
San Francisco's police chief to ask officials for Tasers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's police chief wants city officials to arm his department with Tasers amid continued protests over the shooting death of a knife-wielding suspect last week.

Chief Greg Suhr planned to ask city officials for the devices during a police commission meeting Wednesday night. Suhr withdrew a similar proposal two years ago amid commission opposition.

Tasers are a weapon meant to shock and briefly incapacitate suspects with an electrical jolt. Critics say the weapon can kill suspects and that police officers sometimes grab and shoot their guns when they meant to use a Taser.

The request comes in the wake of last Wednesday's fatal shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city's Bayview neighborhood that was captured on two video clips, both circulated widely online. Suhr has said the shooting could have been avoided if the responding officers were equipped with stun guns.

Suhr said one clip isolated from the 15-second video appears to show Woods raising a hand holding the knife.

Another clip shows Woods, who is surrounded by police officers with their weapons drawn, limping down a sidewalk along a wall. Woods appears to approach an officer with gun drawn who is walking toward him when at least 15 gunshots are fired amid bystanders' screams.

The videos fueled anger against police in the predominantly black neighborhood. The races or ethnicities of the five officers who shot Woods were not released by the department and the video does not show all their faces.

Suhr said the five officers who fired their guns have been put on leave with pay pending the outcome of the department's investigation. The San Francisco district attorney is also investigating. Suhr said the identities of the officers will be released by "the end of the week."

Woods' cousin, Jeff Stewart, said at an hours-long, emotional meeting, that his family wants the five officers to be charged in the case and for Suhr to resign.

"He was a person. He deserves to be breathing," Stewart shouted.

Stewart said the family is also demanding Suhr personally apologize to Woods' mother and for the police department to pay for Woods' funeral.

He said they will demand federal authorities investigate the case.

Some activists and community leaders who spoke during the meeting echoed Stewart's call for Suhr to resign. Others asked him to reach out to the community.

The speakers were at times interrupted by a crowd outside the packed room chanting "Fire Chief Suhr! Fire Chief Shur!"

Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local NAACP branch, said the police chief should do a more vigorous effort to recruit African American and Latino officers.

"Let us act like San Francisco knows how to do it," Brown said. "We claim to be a liberal city, let us not live a lie."

Before the meeting, a crowd chanted and held signs that read "Jail All Racist Killer Cops" and "Fire Chief Shur!" outside City Hall. The also lit candle in Woods' memory.

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Kristin Bender contributed to this story.

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This story has been corrected to show Mario Woods was killed Wednesday not Thursday.