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San Francisco police commission discusses
officer-involved shooting deaths

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

July 12, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The families of two men shot and killed by police officers within three weeks of each other came together at tonight's San Francisco Police Commission meeting to continue to petition the Police Department for answers. Vocal opponents of the department's use of force have appeared at the last two meetings, but tonight was the first time both the relatives of 25-year-old Asa Sullivan and 36-year-old Oliver Lefiti came together to criticize the way the department has provided little or no information to family members.

"I know the police commission is not directly responsible for the death of Asa, however this commission was put in place to make sure that SFPD is held accountable for their actions," said Evette Weiler, a 27-year-old friend of Sullivan's family. "I feel the commission has failed the people and visitors of San Francisco in that respect."

Sullivan died June 6 when he fled to the cramped attic of a Villas Parkmerced apartment after officers entered on a trespassing call. Police followed Sullivan into the dark attic and shot him after he assumed a shooting stance with a cylindrical object in his hands, according to police.

No gun was ever found in the attic.

Less than three weeks later, on June 24, police in the Mission District shot Oliver Lefiti.

According to police, two officers were threatened when Lefiti drove his Honda in their direction. They shot him several times and he died the next day.

Both families contend that the shootings were unjustified uses of force and the officers involved should be thrown off the force.

Commissioner Theresa Sparks tonight called upon Chief Heather Fong to try and bridge the communication gap and to provide some compassion to the families.

Fong said she would like to communicate more with the families, but the department also had to consider legal issues before that could happen. She also said information released to the media could ruin an investigation.

"Once something compromises an investigation, you can't turn it back," Fong said.

Also at tonight's meeting, a representative from the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice proposed a plan to hire an outside organization to audit the department.

Deputy Director David Onek debuted a plan to recruit the Police Executive Research Forum to help the police with issues such as redrawing district lines and improving technology.

The plan would rely on months of information gathering and assessment, but Onek said that in the end, real implementation would occur.

The commission was receptive to the idea, but the proposal is only in its beginning stages. The mayor's office did not even have a cost proposal available. The discussion is expected to continue at the next commission meeting.

Commissioners Joe Veronese and David Campos were excused from tonight's 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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