SAN FRANCISCO—A federal jury has ruled that the four San Francisco Police Department officers who shot and killed 28-year-old Alejandro “Alex” Nieto in Bernal Heights Park were not using unconstitutional excessive force. The verdict was deliberated by an eight-member jury and delivered on Thursday, March 10. Nieto died two years ago in March 2014.
According to Nieto’s “Justice 4 Alex Nieto” website, he was born and raised in Bernal Heights and the Mission District of San Francisco. At the time, Nieto was a student at the City College of San Francisco studying criminal justice. The page indicates Nieto was “struck by 14 to 15 bullets (of a total of 59 shots)… without justification.” At the time of the incident, Alex was eating dinner wearing his security guard shift uniform under a 49ers jacket and armed with a licensed Taser when a local dog-walker called the police due to suspicion Nieto was a local gang member, according to the site.
Nieto was shot and killed during a confrontation with police officers on his way out of the park. The site further states: “Nieto posed no threat to anyone at the time,” and routinely ate his dinner in Bernal Park before reporting to his shift. Police reports state Nieto had been told to put his hands up by the four attending police officers. The officers opened fire when Nieto instead pulled and fired his stun gun, which police officers mistook for a handgun.
According to Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner, the “most valuable piece of evidence was the Taser clock” which showed Nieto had pulled the weapon’s trigger when he was confronted by SFPD officers. The police officers believed their lives were in danger. “I am pleased the jury saw the facts the way we presented them,” Baumgartner stated. “Everybody here, including the officers understands that the Nietos must be very sad to lose a child like that, but the officers didn’t do anything wrong.”
Nieto’s parents, Elvira and Refugio Nieto filed a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit in August 2014, claiming the SFPD officers deprived Nieto of his right to due process and right to be protected from unreasonable or deadly force. The claim was dropped from the case on Tuesday, March 8.