Videos: Calif. cop fatally shoots knife-wielding attacker
Officer Kenneth Cha fatally shot Nicholas Flusche, who was still pursuing his wounded victim and had the victim’s blood all over his face
By Vivian Ho
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco police officer’s killing of a knife-wielding man in a Subway sandwich shop ended a horrific encounter in which the attacker went behind the counter to stab and bloody a store clerk even as bystanders sought to intervene, with one daring woman smacking him repeatedly with an oven tray, according to video footage released Wednesday.
When Officer Kenneth Cha fired the fatal shot on the morning of May 3, the man with the knife, 26-year-old Nicholas Flusche, was still pursuing his wounded victim and had the victim’s blood all over his face, the footage showed.
Surveillance cameras from inside the shop on the busy 900 block of Market Street, as well as cameras worn on the chests of two officers, captured portions of the panicked scene just before 11:30 a.m. Police officials released the videos at a neighborhood town-hall meeting, where they gave details of the city’s second officer-involved shooting of the year and the first fatal one.
The attack began after Flusche ordered a sandwich and refused to pay, said police Cmdr. Greg McEachern. A surveillance video showed Flusche, a Texas native whose last address is unknown, loitering at the side of the counter before opening a waist-high swing door, rushing behind the counter and attacking the clerk. The employee was later treated at a hospital for stab wounds to his head.
For two minutes, bystanders tried to stop the attack, with a woman desperately hitting Flusche with an oven tray used to warm sandwiches, a young boy throwing something in his direction, and finally a man aggressively grabbing Flusche. Officer Cha arrived at the side of the counter and pointed his gun at the attacker, witnesses said, he ordered everyone to get down.
The footage showed the victim and the last bystander rush out from behind the counter, with Flusche in pursuit, before Cha shot Flusche once from a few feet away. Flusche, who still had the knife in his hand, was pronounced dead at the scene, McEachern said.
It was the first fatal police shooting under Chief Bill Scott, who took command in January, and the town hall was the first in which police released footage from body cameras, which were given to officers last year. The town halls often have been raucous, with police watchdogs and community members criticizing the department for presenting what they considered one-sided accounts of fatal shootings.
“Transparency is what the community expects from us, and it’s what we expect from ourselves,” Scott said at the meeting. “The release of the information today will be done in a nonjudgmental way. We just want to get the facts out to the public and not make any judgments.”
Some community members who attended the meeting raised questions about the fact that Cha was involved in both of the city’s police shootings this year. In January, he shot and seriously wounded a man during a confrontation outside his home in the Ocean View neighborhood. That shooting is also under investigation.
“We’re not at a point where we can make a judgment on what could have been done, what should have been done,” Scott said. “In terms of making judgments, it is not appropriate at this time to do that.”
Although several community members said they did not trust San Francisco police officers, others said that after viewing the videos, they did not think Cha had any other choice but to shoot Flusche.
“I have a daughter who works for Subway,” said city resident Michael Fisher. “It could have been my daughter behind that counter. I want to thank you for being there."
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