Video: Attorney files suit against SFPD, claims Mario Woods was ‘senselessly gunned down’

Attorney John Burris questioned the credibility of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr

Civil rights attorney John Burris


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The family of Mario Woods and their attorney announced Friday in a press conference that they have filed a federal lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department for the shooting death of Woods.

Civil rights attorney John Burris also disclosed the status of the investigation into the “unnecessary and tragic death at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department” that occurred on December 2, and released graphic images showing wounds suffered by Woods in the fatal shooting.

Burris gathered with the Woods’ family and friends, as well as members of the community and the media Friday, to show a third and previously unreleased video that captured a different angle of the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old San Francisco resident.

Burris contends that Woods did not pose a threat to police, and says the images show that Woods was struck more than 20 times during the altercation with police. It’s unclear how Burris obtained the images.

Gwen Woods, the mother of Mario Woods, sat sobbing with family members and friends as Burris and his colleagues presented the graphic videos along with new photos of Woods’ body taken post-mortem.

While two videos were quickly posted on social media following Woods’ death on Dec. 2, the new video released by Burris’ office comes from “a confidential source” and had not been handed over to police investigators as of Friday afternoon.

Burris showed members of the public that when the video and audio in the newly released footage is slowed down, it appears that the first shot was fired prior to Woods raising his arm.

It appears to contradict San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr’s account of what happened on that day.

Police have said Woods was armed with a kitchen knife at the time of the shooting and is suspected of stabbing a person earlier that day.

Also during Friday’s conference, Burris questioned the credibility of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who had made efforts to justify the shooting, and casts doubts of the entire department.

Suhr has said publicly that Woods raised his arm holding a knife in an aggressive manner prior to officers opening fire.

Burris said that because the evidence contradicts what Suhr said, his credibility is being called into question and that the community deserves better.

“You should resign,” Burris said in a comment directed at Chief Suhr.

Burris said not only did Suhr try to make it seem like Woods “got what he deserved because he started it,” but that the chief used a screen shot of Woods raising his arm to justify the shooting. Burris and his colleagues said that that screen shot came after the first round was fired, not before.

Burris also said the knife is not visible in the videos and that Woods may have even been the wrong suspect.

Burris said the lawsuit aims to prove that what happened to Woods was unlawful and also aims to change any policies carried out by the Police Department that are found to be unconstitutional. He said he hopes the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office or the U.S. Attorney’s Office file criminal charges against the five, as of yet unnamed, officers who opened fire on Woods. He said those officers should be indicted.

Police have released the names of the officers involved in the fatal shooting. There are Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas, and Scott Phillips.

They are all on paid administrative leave, according to police. Police said all five officers discharged their weapons.

Following her son’s death, Gwen Woods attended a vigil at the scene where he was killed, at the intersection of Fitzgerald Avenue and Keith Street, just off Third Street. At the vigil, Gwen Woods said her son was a good man who had a high school diploma and had just gotten a job at UPS.

Gwen Woods said of her son that, “He was the best of me and he redeemed himself.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the vigil and subsequent rallies in the days after Woods’ death.

A walkout held to demand justice for Woods brought out over a hundred community members, who marched from 16th and Mission streets to City Hall.

Some of those who participated in the rally demanded that Suhr be fired, that the mayor’s office pay for Woods’ funeral, and that the officers involved in the shooting be fired and charged with murder, among other demands.

Burris said that the “shooting gallery” that was Woods’ death was “outrageous” and described Woods as a man with a slight build who appeared in the videos to be “relatively helpless.”

The gunshot wounds to Woods’ body, Burris said, show that he was shot in the back of his head, as well as in the front and back of his body by “a hail of bullets.”

Burris said Woods’ death is an “affront and insult to the African American community” in San Francisco and that everyone should know what happened to Woods in order for it not to happen again.

Attorney Adante Pointer, who is representing Gwen Woods as well, compared the Police Department’s “smear campaign” of Woods to that created following the death of Alex Nieto, who was armed with a Taser when four police officers shot and killed him atop Bernal Hill in March 2014.

Pointer and Burris alleged that in both cases, the Police Department “demonized” the victims in an effort to make the public not care about their deaths.

Woods’ death is one of numerous controversies involving the Police Department, including racist text messages exchanged by officers uncovered during a federal investigation that found San Francisco police officers guilty of stealing from victims at single-room occupancy hotels in the city.

Cellphone videos of officers shooting Woods over 20 times were released by witnesses and have sparked outrage among the community.


Burris also unveiled his findings during the press conference after having an independent video/audio expert enhance the cell phone video footage of the shooting. Burris says the enhanced videos confirm public sentiment that Woods did not threaten the police before he was senselessly gunned down.

The recent shooting of Woods is being compared to the recent police shooting deaths in Chicago of La Quan MacDonald and Ron Johnson, who were both shot in the back while moving away from police.

Burris recently commented, “Mario was used as target practice by reckless and malicious San Francisco police officers.” He went on to state “the killing is an outrage and an affront to the African-American community.”

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