Account jeopardizes probe into chase, commissioners say
by Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle
The San Francisco Police Department has jeopardized its investigation
into the fatal police shooting of a suspect by issuing a one-sided
press release, San Francisco police commissioners said Wednesday.
The commissioners, during their weekly meeting, scolded the
department for a Tuesday press release that they say offered only the
police account of the May 5 shooting of suspect Cammerin Boyd, who
was killed by five officers following a car chase. Commissioners said
the press release may taint the recollection of witnesses that
investigators say they are still trying to get to cooperate.
"By your own standard, the department has compromised this
investigation, " Commissioner Joe Veronese told police officials at
The press release, in which the department names the five officers
involved in Boyd's shooting, offers a narrative of what those
officers say happened.
The statement said that Boyd, who officers thought was involved in an
attempted kidnapping of a woman and child, fired at least two rounds
at officers during the pursuit.
According to the statement, "Officers repeatedly told the suspect to
move away from his car. He then suddenly spun around and Officers
William Elieff, Gregory Kane, James O'Malley, Timothy Paine and
Steven Stearns, fearing for their safety as well as the safety of
residents in the area, fired their weapons."
The facts, however, are in dispute, which the release didn't mention,
Some witnesses told reporters in the hours and days after the
shooting that Boyd appeared to be trying to surrender when officers
The Police Department, as well as the district attorney and the
Office of Citizen Complaints -- the city's police watchdog agency --
are investigating the incident.
Police Chief Heather Fong told commissioners that as the head of the
force, she takes "full responsibility" for the press release, and she
said she would remove the document from the department's Web site.
The department issued the one-page release in response to a public
records request by the American Civil Liberties Union, which asked
for the identities of the officers involved in the shooting to be
Commissioners urged the department two weeks ago to comply with the
ACLU request, saying doing so would help the department gain the
public's trust that there will be a fair investigation. "Essentially,
you've undone with this one piece of paper whatever good will all of
us were trying to engender," Commissioner Joe Marshall said,
referring to the press release.
Added commissioner Peter Keane: "Don't you see how one-sided this is?
You were supposed to put out the names. Put out the names," Keane
said. "And if you feel you have to add something, you certainly
should balance it ... and (state) that the investigation will sort it
out, which I'm confident it will."
Capt. Denis O'Leary said he and other police officials spent about
six hours Tuesday going over the wording of the press release before
it was made public. "We were trying to consider what would be the
minimal amount of information we could give without tainting
statements," he said.
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