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Family of man killed by police plead for answers

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

June 21, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - More than two weeks after two San Francisco police officers shot and killed an unarmed man in an apartment attic, friends and family of the victim pleaded for their questions to be answered.

A group of emotional speakers lined up tonight in front of the San Francisco Police Commission and asked for accountability in the June 6 death of 25-year-old Asa Sullivan.

"A lot of people are asking questions, especially my family," said Kahlil Sullivan, Asa's 26-year-old brother. "We have nothing."

Internal affairs, the homicide detail and the district attorney's office have all launched separate investigations into the matter, but family members have been kept in the dark despite a commission recommendation requiring a department liaison to provide updates.

The commission approved the recommendation following another fatal officer-involved shooting in August 2004. The recommendations not only require a liaison with the Police Department to work with the victim's family, but it also calls on the department to investigate a case thoroughly before releasing information to the public.

Original reports said that Sullivan had shot at police officers before he was killed.

The victim's cousin, Autumn Sullivan, 27, wondered why the reports conflicted.

"This is a tremendous loss to our family," she said. "The story has changed several times and we want to know why. Now, Asa Jr. is going to have to grow up without a father."

The speakers called upon the department to investigate and reveal the records of the two officers involved, Michelle Alvis, 28, and John Keesor, 35. Supporters also called for the timely release of the medical examiner's report and no further delay in the investigation.

"I remember thinking to myself, if my brother was shot, or my sister or my mother or anybody in my family ... you bet you, I would know the facts behind that case within 24 hours."

Commissioner Joe Veronese told Deputy Police Chief Antonio Parra. "You would expect the same thing and I think everybody on this commission would expect the same thing. Why is Mr. (Sullivan)'s family any different? Why is anybody out in the community any different?"

Parra responded by saying the department has appointed the required liaisons and he would work on a timetable for the commission. The commission, however, will not meet again until July 5, and many community leaders are calling on police to be more forthcoming.

Dawn Edwards of Bay Area Police Watch called the killing of Sullivan a "useless death of an unarmed man."

The Police Department has not released a statement since the days following the shooting but the day after, police released a detailed description of the events that happened that night.

Sgt. Neville Gittens said police were called to the Villas Parkmerced apartments around 8:50 p.m. on reports from neighbors of squatters in an uninhabited apartment.

Officers contacted security and then entered a two-floor apartment at 2 Garces Drive. Once inside, the officers encountered Sullivan and another man. Sullivan fled upstairs to the attic, Gittens said. Officers attempted to get him to come out, but he refused, saying he didn't want to go back to jail.

Alvis and Keesor, using a flashlight to see, followed Sullivan into the dark attic. The officers said that once they were inside, Sullivan took a shooting stance and clasped his hands around a "cylindrical" object.

Gittens did not say what Sullivan was holding in his hands, but investigators did not find a gun anywhere in the attic.

Police say Keesor shot first and the bullet ricocheted around the attic and nicked Alvis' ear. Then, Alvis fired. Gittens said he does not know how many rounds were fired, but Sullivan was hit and died in the attic.

The commission expects an update on the matter at the next meeting on July 5.

President Louise Renne and Police Chief Heather Fong did not attend tonight's meeting because they were at a budget meeting.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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