SF union criticizes policy after video shows suspect running over officer

The union said the attack shows how the department’s policy prohibiting officers from firing at moving vehicles puts its “officers’ lives in danger"

By Evan Sernoffsky and Annie Ma
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Police Department released a video Friday of an auto break-in suspect running over a plainclothes police officer and an alleged accomplice Thursday near Alamo Square.

The police officers union said the attack shows how the department’s policy prohibiting officers from firing at moving vehicles puts its “officers’ lives in danger.”

The Police Department released the video while identifying three suspects in the attack as young San Francisco men, two of whom were booked on suspicion of charges including attempted murder.

The video was captured just before noon from a security camera near Pierce and Hayes streets.

A black Infinity sedan pulls up and two people wearing gray hooded sweatshirts get out.

Police officials said the men were part of a team breaking into cars at the famed tourist draw, across from the Painted Ladies. Plainclothes officers were at the scene amid a spiking epidemic of car break-ins around the city.

Ten seconds after the men get out of the car, one of the alleged accomplices runs back into the vehicle. A second man, though, gets tackled directly behind the car by an undercover officer who had been patrolling on a bicycle.

A second plainclothes officer then runs up alongside the car. But rather than surrender, the driver reverses over the officer and the suspect behind the car.

The second officer pounds on the vehicle as the driver then speeds forward, possibly again hitting the two men on the street. The second officer draws his gun and aims it at the driver, but doesn’t fire.

“Tell me that these officers did not show the utmost restraint by not shooting the suspect who just ran over a San Francisco police officer and his own accomplice,” said Martin Halloran, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

In December 2016, the San Francisco Police Commission approved a policy that prohibited police officers from opening fire at moving vehicles.

The commission unanimously approved the policy following a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s community-policing division, which began reviewing the department after several controversial police shootings, including the fatal shooting of Mario Woods in 2015.

In May 2016, a police sergeant shot and killed 29-year-old Jessica Williams, who was allegedly trying to flee officers in a stolen car. The shooting prompted the ouster of then-Police Chief Greg Suhr.

The police union, which had an ally in Suhr, has been critical of the policy, and even filed a lawsuit saying the commission violated the union’s collective bargaining rights by enacting the policy.

Shortly after Thursday’s attack, Halloran issued a statement again saying the policy “must be changed.”

“It is so frustrating to SFPD officers that our use-of-force policy prohibits us from shooting at a suspect in a vehicle even if that suspect is trying to kill or seriously injure innocent civilians or our officers,” he said.

The injured officer was treated at a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Deputy Chief Michael Redmond characterized the incident as “a violent assault that could have had deadly consequences to our officers.”

All three suspects were later apprehended after the driver crashed eight blocks away from the initial scene. The suspect who was run over was treated at a hospital.

They were identified by the Police Department as San Francisco resident’s Devonta Lofton, 25, Adrian Landers, 23, and Jamon Butler, 19.

Lofton and Butler were booked on suspicion of crimes including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and hit-and-run causing injury. They are being held on $2 million bail.

©2018 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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