The San Francisco police officers who shot and killed Mario Woods will not face criminal charges in the 2015 confrontation, prosecutors said Thursday.
The killing of Woods, 26, who was armed with a knife and under the influence of methamphetamine, sparked protests throughout the Bay Area and was part of a series of controversies that roiled the San Francisco Police Department in 2015 and 2016, eventually leading to the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr.
In a 29-page document outlining the decision, the San Francisco district attorney’s office said the five officers who used lethal force, striking him with at least 21 bullets, had reason to believe Woods posed a danger when they opened fire in the 6600 block of 3rd Street on Dec. 2, 2015.
The shooting drew widespread condemnation after a cellphone video showed several officers confronting Woods, who was black, as he stood against a wall. Woods had been reported as the suspect in an assault and was armed with a knife, but he appeared to be walking away when officers opened fire.
Police told coroner’s investigators that Woods repeatedly ignored orders to drop the knife before they fired five less-than-lethal projectiles at him, then fired gunshots, according to the autopsy report.
Two rounds pierced his skull, one grazed a cheek and others struck his thighs, back, chest, abdomen and hands, according to the autopsy report. Authorities reportedly found 27 bullet casings, as well as unspent rounds, at the scene.
“Additionally, being as though Woods had previously stabbed an individual, Woods posed a credible threat to the public,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement announcing its decision. “Given the serious nature of the crime the officers had probable cause to believe Woods had committed, the officers would have been derelict in their duty to protect the public had they let Woods escape.”
San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell said he respected the decision, adding that the city is still committed to police reform in the wake of a Department of Justice audit that found the city’s Police Department disproportionately used force against people of color.
“I respect the District Attorney’s decision, and also acknowledge the pain it will cause in communities that have for so long been disproportionately impacted by violence,” the mayor said in a statement. “The brave men and women of the San Francisco Police Department take very seriously their responsibilities to protect the public and earn the trust of communities.”
John Burris, the Bay Area civil rights attorney who represents the Woods family, said the decision only adds to their pain.
“I am extremely disappointed, but not surprised, at the D.A.’s decision not to prosecute the cops,” he said. “Multiple shots in the back warrant criminal prosecution.”
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi agreed.
“The San Francisco District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute any officer on any charge is mindboggling and fails to hold police to the same laws we, as citizens, are expected to abide,” Adachi’s statement said in part. “To date, not a single officer in San Francisco has ever been criminally charged as the result of shooting a citizen … The reforms proposed by the Department of Justice’s review are empty promises without officer accountability.”