San Francisco Cops Caught on Tape Shooting Man in Wheelchair

After two police shootings in as many weeks, department brass hope Tasers can salvage city morale.

By Jamilah King Jan 06, 2011

San Francisco police officers were caught on camera shooting a man in a wheelchair. Video of the shooting, which happened on Tuesday, was captured by a passerby and uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday. It’s the second time in just a few weeks that SFPD officers have shot knife-wielding suspects. And to make matters worse, this latest incident happened outside of a city mental health building.

The video, which we’ve included above, shows several officers confronting an unidentified man in a wheelchair who was allegedly wielding a knife and a chunk of concrete. The department claims the man stabbed an officer earlier and had begun slashing nearby car tires. Shortly after the civilian dropped the knife, officers shot twice, hitting the unidentified suspect in the groin. The victim did not appear to be confined to the wheelchair as officers began forcing him to the ground after being shot.

A witness can be heard on the video saying, "What the fuck? That was unnecessary."

Two of the unidentified officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to radio station KQED.

The shooting comes one week after officers shot and killed 46-year-old Vinh Bui in the city’s Portola neighborhood. Bui, who police said had a long history of mental illness, had reportedly confronted a group of teenagers he thought were making too much noise, and began brandishing a knife, according to San Francisco Weekly.

"Preliminary investigation indicates the officer’s actions were within policy," the department said in a statement released shortly after the shooting.

The two shootings have reignited talk within the department over its use of force. Currently, SFPD officers do not carry Tasers. Police Chief George Gascon said on Wednesday that both incidents serve as clear reminders that the department needs to find non-lethal ways of confronting civilians, an effort Gascon has promised to re-introduce to the city’s police commission as early as February.

"A Taser more than likely would have ended this scenario, probably at the earlier stages," the chief said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "But we don’t have a Taser."

Gascon is a relatively new arrival to the force, transplanted from Arizona little over a year ago after locking horns with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Tensions between police and the city’s most aggreieved residents have also been notably higher since voters passed Proposition L, a new ordinance that prohibits pedestrians from sitting on city sidewalks. In a city that’s increasingly divided between rich and poor, the ordinance is widely seen by activists as an attack against the city’s sizable homeless population.