The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 on Dec. 13 for a memorial to be built in Bernal Heights Park to honor police shooting victim Alejandro "Alex" Nieto.
District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell said he voted against the memorial because it sends the wrong message to "the men and women of our police department who put their lives on the line every day," notes Courthouse News Service.
Farrell stated that the board had not paid tribute to police officers who had been killed, and had "forgotten the debt we owe to these men and women."
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen countered: "If law enforcement wants to be recognized, all they have to do is ask, the same way the community has asked."
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"Regardless of how you feel about whether it was justified, we need to be able to mark that this is an experience people have in San Francisco," District 11 Supervisor John Avalos said, defending the memorial resolution. "That’s what this memorial is really about, to mark this time when we had these numerous tragedies that really tore apart our communities and our families.
"This means everything," Oscar Salinas, of the Justice for Alex Nieto coalition, stated. "But this is just the beginning. Parents and kids for generations can walk to that hill and talk about what happened to him."
Nieto, a 28-year-old college student, was eating a burrito in the park on March 21, 2014, when someone called the police with a report of an armed man; Nieto was legally carrying a Taser for his job.
Four cops confronted Nieto, whom police said refused to show his hands. According to police, Nieto aimed what appeared to be a gun with a red laser sight at them. The officers subsequently fired 48 bullets at Nieto. The incident sparked outrage and protests in the city, according to Courthouse News Service.
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Nieto's parents offered a different version of events in a federal lawsuit that they filed against the City and County of San Francisco, and San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr in August 2014.
The lawsuit asserted that Nieto was walking on a jogging trail in the park when police ordered him to stop: "Within seconds a quick volley of bullets were fired at Nieto, No additional orders or any other verbal communication was heard between the first officer yelling 'stop' and the initial volley of gunfire."
The Nieto family also mentioned in their lawsuit that the San Francisco Police Department has a history of using excessive force, and pointed to 97 police shootings that have killed 33 people since 2000.