Newly-released video of SFPD Mario Woods shooting fuels speculation about whether it was justified

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Friday, October 12, 2018
New video released of 2015 fatal shooting of Mario Woods
A federal judge has cleared the way for a civil lawsuit in the police shooting death of Mario Woods, saying newly-released video in the case casts doubt on the officers' accounts that he was moving quickly toward them while carrying a knife.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A newly released video of the deadly 2015 San Francisco police shooting of Mario Woods is fueling new speculation about whether the shooting was justified.

The video was unveiled during a Tuesday hearing for a civil rights lawsuit against the police officers involved in the deadly shooting.

A judge ruled that the case could go to trial in April on claims that officers violated Wood's civil rights by using excessive force during the deadly shooting.

RELATED: Mother of Mario Woods says 'I will never let you forget his name'

The 26-year-old Woods was killed after police said he would not drop a knife. Woods reportedly used the knife to stab another man in the Bayview District a short time before he was shot and killed.

The new 90 second cellphone video, which was never posted online, had both sides talking and seeing it as new evidence in favor of their argument.

The video shot by a former Muni bus driver shows nearly the entire confrontation between police and Woods on December 2, 2015.

The officers argued that they feared for their safety and the public's well-being and that they opened fire after Woods made an aggressive move towards officers.

It was released by the San Francisco's City Attorney's Office as evidence in support of the SFPD officer's actions.

"This video doesn't change anything and further supports the police department's position that the shooting was lawful and justified," wrote John Cote, communications director for the city attorney's office.

RELATED: DA says SF cops won't be charged in fatal Woods, Gongora shootings

"When handling a motion to dismiss the case, the judge is required under the law to construe everything in the light that is most favorable to the plaintiff. In that light, the judge still dismissed all of the federal civil rights claims but said that two narrow claims remain as questions for a jury to decide."

But the attorney for the Woods family says the video does not support the officer's account that Woods was being aggressive towards officers.

"At the time he was being shot, or was shot, he had not made any threatening gestures toward police, he wasn't walking toward him with the knife out, he didn't lunge at any of them, and at best we he was walking away, and the question is, walking away... is that a death warrant," said attorney John Burris.

The video starts with two officers following Woods on the street with guns in their hands, but not aimed at him.

The video-taker pleads out loud multiple times for Woods to "drop that knife" and that "it's not worth it, homeboy."

Twenty seconds into the video, the situation escalates when multiple other officers arrive at the scene and surround Woods on the sidewalk.

The video-taker narrates the ensuing events as officers fired at least five non-lethal bullets at Woods in an effort to get to drop the knife he was holding. Woods refused and continued to interact with police.

One minute and 11 seconds into the video, police open fire, killing Woods.

RELATED: Video shows fatal police shooting in San Francisco

An anonymous viewer has given ABC7 News video showing the fatal police shooting of a homeless man in San Francisco's Mission District.

Investigators determined that 26 bullets were fired by five different police officers.

The SF Police Officers Association backed the officers' actions and said that they did not believe it was excessive use of force.

"The members were put in a situation where they felt they needed to not only defend themselves, but defend the public in the area," said Tony Montoya, then president of the San Francisco Police Officer's Association.

In March 2018, SF District attorney George Gascon said that he believed the use of force was not only excessive but unnecessary.

Despite that belief, Gascon said the officers in the Woods shooting would not face criminal charges, because no crime was committed based on current law.

"Under current law, police officers do not have to retreat, police officers don't have to use the minimum force necessary," Gascon said.

He told reporters the current law needs reforming and pledged support to Assembly Bill 931, which would allow police to use lethal force only when necessary, not when it's reasonable.

Wood's mother blasted the decision at the time.

"I heard them say they had to stop Mario, no they didn't because they just went ballistic with the gun when our babies were coming home from school," said Gwen Woods. "I will never let you forget his name."

Woods' shooting and several others around the same time prompted wide-spread community outrage and put pressure on the police department, which eventually led to the ousting of then San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

It also led the department to change officer training for officers to emphasize de-escalation tactics when dealing with suspects.

The trial for the civil rights lawsuit is set to be heard on April 1, 2019.

Visit this page for more on the shooting of Mario Woods.