A jury on Thursday found that San Francisco police did not use excessive force in the March 2014 fatal shooting of a Latino man armed with a Taser.
The family of 28-year-old Alex Nieto filed the federal wrongful death civil lawsuit in the March 2014 shooting, arguing in court that Nieto did not act aggressively and was carrying the weapon for his job as a security guard.
Prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against the officers, who argued in court that Nieto pointed the Taser at them, and that they mistook it for a gun.
“The officers didn’t violate the Constitution when they used lethal force on this particular day,” said Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner, who represented the officers.
After the trial, Baumgartner told reporters gathered outside the courthouse that Nieto pulled the trigger on the Taser as police confronted him, according to the clock on the weapon, local media reported.
Adante Pointer, an attorney for the family, denied that Nieto ever raised the Taser.
“It’s a sad day for the Nietos, but a much worse day for the San Francisco community,” Pointer said. “Essentially you have a precedent being set that officers have the green light to fire 59 bullets in a public park at a man who posed no threat to them or anyone else.”
An eight-member jury began deliberating on Wednesday afternoon and reached a unanimous verdict on Thursday in favor of the police, finding that the four officers at the scene did not use excessive force in the shooting.
The verdict comes amid a nationwide debate about use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.
Protesters in San Francisco, fueled by the fatal police shooting of a 26-year-old black man last December, have rallied against the police department in the Nieto case and echoed their ongoing call for the ouster of Police Chief Greg Suhr.
In the wake of the December shooting, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would launch a review of the city’s police force. The process will result only in recommendations, not court-enforceable reforms, stopping short of the demands of protesters and civil rights groups.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sara Catania and Matthew Lewis)