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On the one-year anniversary of Amilcar Perez-Lopez’s death, dozens gathered to remember the 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant at the precise location where he was fatally shot six times by two San Francisco police officers.
Amid the imminent rain and approaching darkness, mourners stood on Folsom Street, between 24th and 25th streets, many with candles in hand.
“These candles symbolize that light which will overcome the darkness, and we need to remember this as we enter into some darkness tonight,” said Father Richard Smith, who also presided over Perez-Lopez’s San Francisco funeral on April 4, 2015. “The grief, the tears we still feel at the fact that this young man was running for his life when he was shot in the back.”
Perez-Lopez was shot Feb. 26, 2015 on Folsom Street after two plainclothes officers, Eric Reboli and Craig Tiffe, responded to a call that a man armed with a knife was chasing another man with a bike. On the night of the shooting, Police Chief Greg Suhr stated that Perez-Lopez (who hadn’t yet been identified) lunged at officers with a knife raised overhead, prompting Reboli and Tiffe to open fire.
Arnoldo Casillas, the attorney representing the Perez-Lopez family, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against San Francisco Police Department on April 24, 2015 after a private autopsy, conducted a month earlier by forensic pathologist Jay Chapman of Santa Rosa, seemed to contradict the SFPD’s version of events. A second autopsy obtained by El Tecolote from the San Francisco Medical Examiner mirrored Chapman’s findings: four entry wounds in Perez-Lopez’s back—one near the upper right shoulder, two to the mid-lower right back, and one to the mid-left back. There was also one that entered through the back of Perez-Lopez’s right arm, grazing his chest, and one to the back of his head.
“[Our lawsuit is] in limbo. Our judge has put it on hold pending the outcome of the decision by [District Attorney George] Gascón,” Casillas said. “Honestly, I have no expectation that they’re going to prosecute the cops. I want them to make their decision so that we can get on with our jobs. It’s been a year, what’s the hold up?”
Among the demonstrators present at the vigil were the parents of Alex Nieto, members of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition and Supervisor David Campos.
“When I came to this country, I left Guatemala because there, police have the ability to do anything they want with no accountability,” Campos said. “And never in my wildest dreams did I think that someone would leave that country only to have this happen here by police in San Francisco. We have to demonstrate that we are better than that, that we believe in justice.”
The demonstrators continued the vigil, marching to the Mission Police Station at Valencia and 17th streets, where roughly 40 uniformed police officers lined the sidewalk in front of the station. The vigil ended at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church, the same place where Perez-Lopez’s San Francisco funeral took place.