A 27-year-old woman driving a stolen car was shot and killed by a police sergeant in San Francisco’s Bayview District Thursday morning, the city’s third such fatal officer-involved shooting since December.
The incident began around 9:45 a.m. on Elmira Street between Shafter Street and Interstate Highway 280, an area dominated by warehouses and light industry.
Uniformed officers spotted a stolen vehicle with one female occupant inside, according to police Chief Greg Suhr. The two officers, both from the Bayview Station, were part of a grant-funded special detail focusing on vehicle theft.
The officers attempted to make a traffic stop, but the driver attempted to drive away. She made it only a short distance away on Elmira Street before she crashed, striking a truck, according to police.
The officers got out of their vehicle and attempted to detain the woman. A witness told police that as the officers were trying to detain her, she was trying to drive the vehicle forward and backward, Suhr said.
One of the officers, a sergeant whose name has not yet been released, fired a single shot that struck the woman, Suhr said.
Police said they had not yet interviewed the officers involved as of this morning and did not know whether the woman had a weapon or posed a threat to the officers.
Officers performed CPR on the woman and took her to San Francisco General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her name is not yet being released.
The shooting comes at a politically difficult time for Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee. The San Francisco Police Department is already under intense scrutiny following the fatal shooting of Mario Woods in December and the fatal shooting of Luis Gongora in April, as well as two recent scandals involving racist text messages exchanged among officers.
Activists for months have been calling for Suhr to be fired.
Supervisor Jane Kim, David Campos, Eric Mar and John Avalos joined those calls for Suhr’s removal last week following the release of a critical report on the department by a blue-ribbon panel commissioned by District Attorney George Gascon.
Lee has stood by Suhr so far, pointing to reform efforts launched since December including a review of use of force policies, increased officer training in areas including implicit racial bias and a review of policies and procedures being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services.
Suhr Thursday called the shooting:
“… tragic. … This is exactly the type of thing that we, with all of our reforms, are trying to avoid.”
Suhr noted that the department did not want any contacts with police to end in an officer-involved shootings.
The department’s critics were quick to renew their calls for Suhr’s removal Thursday, with Campos asking on Twitter:
“How many more of these do we need before Chief Suhr goes?”
A rally has also been announced at San Francisco City Hall at 5 p.m. by organizers of a group that staged a hunger strike and multiple protests in recent weeks calling for Suhr’s removal.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi has not called for Suhr’s firing, but has repeatedly called for an independent outside investigation of the department by the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division or by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Adachi said in a statement Thursday:
“It is unacceptable for police encounters with unarmed citizens to end in bullet wounds and body bags. … While details are still scarce, I am deeply disturbed by reports that the young woman gunned down today was driving away from officers. She was entitled to due process and, above all, she was entitled to her life.”
“Police reforms and policy changes are meaningless if they aren’t accompanied by a major shift in police culture, away from shooting first and asking questions later.”
Supervisor Malia Cohen, the supervisor for the Bayview District, has not called for Suhr’s removal, but has worked on reform measures including Proposition D, a June ballot measure that would require the Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate all officer-involved shootings.
Cohen Thursday said in a statement that she was:
“… saddened, deeply troubled and frustrated about the incident that occurred this morning on Elmira Street.”
She noted that it was unclear whether it was necessary for the officer to fire his gun, given a new department policy prohibiting officers from firing at moving vehicles:
“What we do know is a woman tragically lost her life today.”
Cohen said she will be asking the OCC to investigate the shooting.
In addition to the Police Department, the district attorney’s office is investigating Thursday’s shooting. Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice also responded to the shooting scene this morning, according to Suhr.