Update: Family, Community Members Hold Vigil for Man Shot by Police

Despite light rain, family members, friends and community members took to the streets of the Bayview District Thursday evening to remember the life of a 26-year-old San Francisco man who was fatally shot by police on Wednesday. 

With light police presence and with a helicopter hovering overhead, well over 100 people gathered at the intersection of Third Street and Fitzgerald Avenue beginning around 5:30 p.m. The mother of the deceased, Gwen, attended the vigil accompanied by other family members. “He wasn’t that monster that you’re going to hear on the news,” she said at the vigil. She said the San Francisco Police Department “needs to get some training” on how to handle people in distress and accused police of “executing” her son. 

Woods’ mother said her son had received his driver’s license, a high school diploma, and was about to start a job at UPS. Mario Woods was shot Wednesday shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the area of Third and Keith streets, after an officer spotted someone holding a knife matching the description of a suspect in an earlier stabbing. 

A number of officers responded and ordered Woods to drop the knife, using a less-lethal firearm known as a bean bag gun and pepper spray. Police said he did. Several videos have surfaced on the social media showing the shooting from various angles. In one, Woods can be seen falling to the ground and then standing up and walking toward an officer, still holding the knife but not appearing to threaten police with it, before several officers open fire.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen attended Thursday evening’s vigil and offered her condolences to the family. The vigil included a moment of silence as well as chants urging that police officers responsible for Woods death be held accountable. 

In 2009, when Woods was 19, a San Francisco Superior Court judge added him and five other men to one of the city’s civil gang injunctions targeting a Hunters Point criminal street gang known as the Oakdale Mob. But a family member on Thursday said that in the Bayview, “All you got to do is be hanging on the street to be slapped with a gang injunction,” adding that Woods “was not a gang member” and didn’t “deserve to be murdered in the street.” Posters expressed a desire to “Heal the Hood,” “Jail all racist killer cops” and “Fire Chief Suhr.”

Mayor Lee to Create New Department to Combat Homelessness

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced plans Thursday to create a new Department to End Homelessness and spend $1 billion over the next four years helping homeless residents move into permanent housing.

Lee vowed to commit at least $250 million per year over the next four years toward homelessness prevention and solutions in the city in an effort intended to help 8,000 homeless individuals by the end of his second, four-year term. “Despite decades of best efforts, we haven’t eliminated homelessness, and as we house and serve thousands, they’re replaced by new thousands,” Lee said. 

The mayor said the plan to solve street homelessness in the city would “require cooperation like never before.” According to the mayor’s office, ending street homelessness will require that the city move forward with progressive approaches to mental health. That includes an expansion of the city’s homeless navigation center program and a coordinated focus on long-term care for the seriously mentally ill.

The Department to End Homelessness will also focus on housing families, veterans and the long-term homeless, as well as utilize the Homeward Bound program, which presents homeless individuals with bus tickets to travel home or to family members outside San Francisco. The Department to End Homelessness will be developed by Barbara Garcia, director of Public Health, Trent Rhorer, director of Human Services, and Sam Dodge, director of HOPE SF, along with service providers, homeless advocates and national experts, according to the mayor’s office. 

Bevan Dufty, the former director of HOPE SF, said Thursday the consolidation of city services offered to the homeless could be key to bringing clinicians, who are managed by the department of Public Health, into shelters, which are managed by the Department of Human Services. Dufty said the consolidation of these services could also remove the bureaucracy that currently only allows the city’s Homeless Outreach Team to fill just 45 of the 1,200 shelter beds in the city. 

While more clinicians have been assigned to tend to the needs of people living on the streets, Dufty said there needs to be beds made available for those homeless individuals who clinicians and the HOT team recommend for housing in the city’s shelters. Lee said the city would be expanding the Navigation Center program, which has aimed to remove barriers to entry into the shelter system by allowing individuals to stay at the center without being separated from their friends, pets or belongings.

Additionally, Lee called for stepped-up police enforcement to curb predatory drug dealing around Navigation Centers, shelters, and other homeless service locations. The mayor is also asking existing philanthropic partners and business leaders, as well as any new funders, to help bolster the city’s efforts to end homelessness.   

(News provided by Bay City News.)