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Militant Journalism

SFPD cover-up exposed in Amilcar Perez-Lopez killing

Autopsy photos shown in front of the police station.

Six shots to the back.

The lies of Chief Greg Suhr and the San Francisco Police Department surrounding the murder of 21-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Amilcar Perez-Lopez were exposed at a press conference in City Hall on Friday.

Attorney Arnoldo Casillas revealed an independent autopsy report as part of a federal lawsuit against Suhr and SFPD showing that Amilcar was running away from undercover officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli, who grabbed him from behind outside of his home in the city’s Mission District and then shot him six times: four bullets in the back, one in the arm, and one to the back of his head.

This explicitly contradicts the repeated allegations of Chief Suhr, who embraced a commonly used tactic of painting the victim of police violence as an aggressive “thug,” stating that not only was Amilcar attempting to steal another man’s bicycle, but that when undercover officers approached him, Amilcar raised a knife over his head and charged the officers, forcing them to fire. Not only was there no altercation happening when the English-speaking undercover officers approached native Spanish speaker Amilcar, but he was also unarmed as he fled for his life, which is confirmed by eyewitness accounts ignored by SFPD.

“Someone charging at you with a knife held high doesn’t get shot in the back of the head,” Casillas explained.

Chief Suhr took the lies of his department to the next level by attempting to drum up sympathy for the officers in a recent interview with local news affiliate KQED, where he diverted questions about Amilcar’s case to say that the families of the officers were very upset. The racism shown by SFPD in Amilcar’s murder is obscene.

Amilcar’s family appeared via Skype during the press conference to plead for justice. They are the ones bearing the brunt of this murder, as Amilcar came to the U.S. to work so that he could provide electricity to their home in Guatemala. Amilcar was working multiple construction jobs where he was known as hard-working and compassionate, and was loved by those in the community that knew him.

In light of the attempted cover-up by SFPD, the Mission community and others enraged by yet another police killing of an unarmed person of color mobilized to send a message that the people demand justice. Hundreds gathered at the site of Amilcar’s murder on Folsom street for a vigil Friday night.

The ceremony started with a ritual dance by the Danzantes, who then led a march down 24th street onto Mission street, where onlookers in the community connected to the message of the protest in the wake of increasing national attention paid to police brutality, prompting some to join the march on its way to the Mission Police Station. Florencia Rojo of the Justice4Amilcar Coalition and Frank Lara of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition led chants of “Six shots to the back, we say fight back!” and “How do you spell racist? S-F-P-D!” as the march gathered steam.

Dozens of cops blocked the entrance to the Mission station as protestors rallied outside. A diagram from the independent autops y was displayed behind those who spoke. Pastor Michael McBride reflected that, “the only difference between the recent case of Walter Scott in South Carolina and this case is we have no video. But now we have an autopsy report and we have witnesses.”

Another attorney from the legal team tied Amilcar’s murder to the rapid gentrification of the Mission District and the fires that have driven low-income families and local businesses out of the city. “Amilcar was being evicted. How about the 150 people who are now homeless? Their landlords had no smoke detectors, no alarms. Now they’re going to be rewarded, they can build high-rises. We will not allow that treatment to continue,” the attorney stated. He went on to say that, “in March of this year the population of California became thirty-nine percent Brown. The plurality in this state is now Brown. It’s no coincidence that Alex Nieto was Brown. It’s no coincidence that Amilcar is Brown. There is an attack on the Mission District. There is an attack on Brown people.”

The parents of Alex Nieto were present at the demonstration, and have courageously stood in solidarity with Amilcar Perez-Lopez and in defense of the Latino community that faces gentrification and racist police violence.

Alex Nieto was murdered by SFPD last year in the nearby Bernal Heights neighborhood. Oscar Salinas of the Alex Nieto Coalition described a community emboldened in the wake of police murders. “To SFPD and to Chief Suhr, you guys are liars, and we know you’re liars. We come here educated, using the legal system against you, because we’re not stupid,” said Salinas.

The two undercover officers involved in Amilcar’s racist murder remain on active duty despite the clear evidence proving their guilt. What must be said is that there is no reform that will prevent police violence against the poor and working classes of San Francisco’s Mission District and elsewhere throughout the U.S., so long as the police remain the repressive arm of a state apparatus that works to prop up a ruling class of bankers, CEOs, and politicians.

Unity among oppressed Black and Brown communities facing police terror, among workers fighting for a living wage, among women and LGBTQ people fighting for equality, and among the 99 percent of those not empowered within this capitalist system must be sought and used to implement a socialist system where the people control the state and work to eradicate inequality. When the police, the courts, and the government are controlled by a small group of wealthy elites, the people’s needs are suppressed by the dictatorship of the rich. Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and all victims of state terror is in the hands of the people’s movement seizing power.

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