Before an anxious and angry town hall crowd gathered at Cesar Chavez Elementary School on Dec. 17, SFPD played video of the moment Jamaica Hampton was shot three times by police.
“That’s my friend,” cried Eve Greenberg as she watched body camera footage of Hampton being shot. “That’s my fucking friend.”
The officer involved shooting that took place at 23rd and Mission streets at 8:34 am on Dec. 7 that left the 24-year-old Hampton in critical condition has been the subject of much speculation, with few details until now. At the Dec. 17 town hall, police released their timeline of events, the officers names and police body camera and security footage of the shooting.
The multiple videos of the shooting shown at the town hall show Hampton involved in a physical altercation with both of the officers before he was chased and shot three times, the final shot striking Hampton when he was on the ground. The officers involved in the shooting have been identified as Sterling Hayes and Christopher Flores.
“Tonight is about transparency,” echoed SFPD Chief Bill Scott throughout the evening, promising a thorough investigation even as unrest began to grow amongst those in attendance.
But many community members in attendance, who have grown frustrated with the repeated pattern of officer involved shootings in the Mission, weren’t buying that.
“I’ve been around supporting families for a while here in the Mission… and police lie,” said community activist Adriana Camarena, who has been leading efforts to support Hampton’s family. “And I’m very happy that you’re making transparency efforts, but don’t mislead the public as to what is happening.”
SFPD Commander Robert O’Sullivan described two previous incidents—a hot prowl burglary and a suspect tampering with vehicles—that police believe to be relevant to the shooting. Officers Hayes and Flores were the same officers who responded to those two calls.
According to O’Sullivan, at 7:47 a.m. on Dec. 7, a 911 call reported that a man “that might have been Latino” broke into an apartment on the 900 block of Capp Street, and officers Hayes and Flores arrived at the scene by 7:52 a.m. While officers investigated the break-in, another 911 call 8:12 a.m. reported a “Hispanic” man hitting car windows and attempting to break into parked police cars with a bar in the vicinity of 25th and Capp streets, and that he was heading towards 24th Street.
While searching the area in their vehicle, officers Hayes and Flores encountered Hampton at 8:34 a.m. as Hampton was was crossing the street at 23rd and Mission streets. Believing that Hampton fit the description of the suspect in both the hot prowl and car tampering, officers Hayes and Flores pulled over their vehicle to confront Hampton.
Though officer Hayes—the passenger in the vehicle—activated his body camera before encountering Hampton, the first 30 seconds of audio weren’t recorded. What Hayes’ body camera did capture however was a scuffle breaking out immediately between Hayes and Hampton, who was carrying a 200ml Grey Goose vodka bottle, as soon as Hayes opened his passenger door. Flores (the driving officer who failed to activate his body camera) exited and went around the rear of the vehicle to assist Hayes. Hayes’ body camera video shows Hampton beating Flores with the vodka bottle before being pepper sprayed, chased and eventually shot. Both Flores, who suffered cuts to his face and the back of his head, and Hampton were taken to SF General Hospital.
According to O’Sullivan, preliminary evidence shows that Hayes fired six shots at Hampton, while Flores fired one.
When police played the videos, the mood in the room changed tense to irate.
“Seeing my friend look like a scared animal not sure where to move … not only will he be processed for a crime that is so arbitrary, but he may not be able to use his legs because you shot him in the legs … it’s so disturbing,” said Greenberg. “He pulled himself from a dark place and rebuilt his life and was thriving, and you tore him down. And I’m disgusted.”
Hampton’s foster brothers, Steven and Richard Ott, also spoke.
“He’s probably the most kindest and gentlest person that you will ever meet in your life,” Richard said. “And watching him get chased and gun downed in the middle of the street when I’ve literally seen my brother give his shirt off of his back to people who have needed it, I do not feel this, in any way shape or form, can ever be justified.”
Hampton was in police custody from the time of the shooting until Dec. 11, but was placed back into police custody on Dec. 16, with the District Attorney’s office charging Hampton with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault upon a peace officer, threat to an executive officer, and vandalism more than $400. According to police, the later charge is from an incident prior to the shooting that took place on the 2600 block of Mission Street.
Father Richard Leslie Smith, who is with the Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez coalition, emphasized the importance of the shooting and not the events that took place before.
“I don’t care whether he was breaking in somewhere or breaking into a car, I’m more concerned about what the officers did,” Smith said. “
Seven independent witnesses have been interviewed, but police are seeking more.
According to Camarena, Hampton remains in critical condition but is stable. “It’s very clear to me that he’s going to be hospitalized for a very long time,” she said.
Though both officers were said to have received de-escalation training, Camarena believes that Hayes and Flores escalated the situation the moment they drew their weapons. “I think that’s the similarity between all the cases,” Camarena said.
In an unusual move, police played officer Haye’s body camera video, which lasted about five-and-half minutes, where Hayes can be heard shouting several times after the shooting, “I didn’t want to fucking do this.” However, Hayes can also be heard weeping before saying, “I tried to pepper spray him. I got myself.”
“They kept running the body camera, I think to create sympathy for the officer involved,” Camarena said. “This is the same officer who proceeds to unload six bullets on Jamaica, which means he was impaired with pepper spray when he shot those bullets.”
Camarena added that “the video also shows that Jamaica was trying to run away.”
Scott opened the meeting by emphasizing that this shooting was the department’s first since June 2018, and that the department has since since a Memorandum of Understanding with the District Attorney’s office, which currently is being headed by Suzy Loftus, the London Breed-appointed pro-cop candidate who was defeated last month by progressive Chesa Boudin.
Friends and family described Hampton as kind and non-violent, a man with muscular physique that he maintained through self care. He had hopes of working of foster youth.
Greenberg has known Hampton since May when they met at an Oakland farmer’s market, where Hampton worked. Greenberg also clarified that Hampton had a place to live and that he maintained a waiter job.
“I just want him to know that he’s cared for and that people showed up for him,” Greenberg said. “One of our last conversations was about him being a statistic, and that was something that he feared. Some people can find him intimidating, but he’s the kindest man I’ve ever met in my life.”
Kim McElroy, Hampton’s foster mother, also spoke about his character. “I’ve had him in my home, throughout the last 14 years,” she said. “He’s no more than a kind-hearted, loving human being. He never lashed out… he’s a loving human being and he did not deserve this.”
Story by: Alexis Terrazas