SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco’s police chief revealed more about the man who was killed at the hands of police on Eighth Street last week.
The new information came at a town hall meeting held blocks from the scene Monday afternoon. And the friend of the dead man was there with a message for police.
Police said it started with 27-year-old Herbert Benitez breaking bottles in the street in front of a construction site. Workers flagged down a passing police car when the man would not stop.
Inside that patrol car, two sergeants, one with 29 years on the force and the other a 17-year veteran. At the community meeting, Chf. Greg Suhr said the suspect got combative when confronted, and the officers tried to back away to diffuse the situation — but that did not work.
“Benitez came after the sergeant, closing the distance….He reached into the sergeant’s shirt and locked on to his vest,” a SFPD spokesperson said. “Mr Benitez took the sergeant to the ground, slamming down on top of him.”
The chief said both sergeants then struggled with Benitez, who at one point, got his hands on one of the sergeant’s gun.
“Benitez got the gun out of the holster, and pointed it at the officer,” the spokesman said. “The officer struggled, looking down the barrel of the his own gun, yelling to his partner, ‘He’s got my gun. Shoot him.'”
That is when the second officer fired. After the chief’s presentation was over, he took questions and comments from the small crowd who came to listen.
Several came from groups, who have protested police shootings and in-custody deaths across the nation.
“This is why police should be disarmed,” one protester said. “They can’t handle their own weapons.”
One of the speakers, however, had a personal connection with the man and his mother.
“The Herbert you are describing is…Herbert I knew from Tuesday night’s at bible study,” the protester said.
She told the chief she forgives the officers involved, but still sounded angry when talking about the lack of mental health services in the city.
“If there were more services, than your officers wouldn’t have to wander around figuring out who was mentally ill and who isn’t,” the protester said.
The chief, who said Benitez didn’t appear to have a criminal record or any known mental problems, said his condolences go out to the family
“I know the mom lost a son,” Suhr said. “Our hearts go out to her. If it didn’t end the way it did, we’d have a shot or dead police officer.”