The three coalitions representing Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez and Mario Woods held a news conference Friday, March 18 on the front steps of City Hall to call for an end to San Francisco Police brutality.
The news conference came just eight days after an eight-person federal jury—without a single black or Latino juror—exonerated Lt. Jason Sawyer, and officers Richard Schiff, Nathan Chew and Roger Morse, ruling that they had not used excessive force in shooting Nieto 59 times.
But what had further enraged the community was a Facebook comment in response to a story about the ruling made by officer Morse a few hours after the verdict was announced.
“Smiling. Ugh how about burning down his house and tazing (sic) his friend who pressed charges,” read Morse’s post.
Morse’s comment appears to reference two incidents, the first stemming from August 2011 when Nieto set a book on fire in his parents home, and the second from a restraining order which was filed after a March 5, 2014 incident where Nieto attacked former friend Arthur Vega with a Taser.
“The police department owes us an apology,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos. “They owe us many apologies, but the latest apology they owe us is the posting that Officer Morse made. Hours after the voting, he’s posting inflammatory remarks on Facebook as if nothing ever happened, as if he had no guilt whatsoever. There should be some disciplinary action against him.”
More than 200 people showed up in support of the Nieto family that morning, many of whom were holding signs and posters with the faces of the young men who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement.
As the sun shined over the steps of City Hall, many felt the lingering pain from the verdict.
“It impacts me in the sense that this is my community. This city means a lot to me, and this is my family,” Catherine Bocog, a San Francisco native, said through tears. “There’s not a word in the dictionary that I can use to put that feeling, to put those emotions in one word, I just can’t describe it.”
The painful ordeal for the Nieto family began on the evening of March 21, 2014, when Nieto, a 28-year-old man, was fatally shot at Bernal Heights Park. According to the SFPD, officers shot at Nieto at least 48 times after they thought he had pointed a handgun at them. Nieto was actually carrying a Taser, issued him as a security guard, the night of the shooting. However, according to Nieto’s legal team, Nieto never pointed his Taser at police, and was shot at 59 times.
The three coalitions that called the news conference on Friday, used the opportunity to announce their merger in an effort to fight for justice.
“This is a historic and profound press conference,” said Bay Area Minister of the Nation of Islam, Christopher Muhammad. “This press conference has now married the struggle, the sacrifice, the sacred blood of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Kenneth Harding Jr. and a host of others that are unnamed but not forgotten.”
In the midst of all of the emotions, tears, roars, cheers, jeers and applauses, Elvira Nieto, Alex’s mother, got in front of the microphone to address the crowd that came to support her family.
“I only want to say one thing,” said Elvira Nieto. “We have won because all of you are with us, and we need to be together so this never happens to our children. I want to thank everybody in the community who’s been with us from day one, and that we go forward in solidarity.”
Today marks the two-year anniversary of Nieto’s death. There is a vigil planned for 6 p.m. tonight at Bernal Heights Park in remembrance of him.