San Francisco, CA — On May 19, police received a 911 call from a woman about two men under an overpass at Mariposa and Owens Streets in San Francisco involved in a fight. When police arrived, they found Michael Macfhionghain and Rafael Mendoza on the ground. Mendoza was in a fight for his life, desperately trying to stop Macfhionghain from stabbing him. In total, 16 cops would show up, stand around, yell at the two men, before four cops opened fire and executed them both.
Macfhionghain was the aggressor in the situation and Mendoza was in the defensive for an attack that lasted over 20 minutes. When police arrived on the scene, they could see Macfhionghain on top of Mendoza with a large knife attempting to stab him.
For some reason, police did not use a taser on Macfhionghain and opted only for pepper spray — which also affected Mendoza — and rubber bullets which appeared to have no effect.
Police eventually released body camera footage from the deadly debacle, identifying the four officers who opened fire as officers Trent Collins, Joshua Dequis, Aidan O’Driscoll, and Daniel Rosaia.
As the video shows, cops stood there for 9 minutes surrounding the two men who barely moved on the ground. There was very little supervision and it was an apparent free-for-all as multiple cops barked order and took pot shots with less than lethal rounds.
“You told me he was attacking you-correct? I need you to drop the knife so we can sort this out,” one officer is seen saying in the video. “We don’t want to hurt you.”
But that wasn’t true. Moments later as Macfhionghain appeared to raise the knife in the air, four officers executed both men.
Multiple experts spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle this week decrying the officers’ actions. Not only were the four officers who fired their weapons at fault, but the 12 other cops who stood around and yelled also added to the deadly ending.
“Large numbers of police officers not only have the potential to impact the behavior of the two men on the ground, but certainly have the potential to impact the behavior of other police officers,” Christine Cole, executive director of the Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute said. “It did not feel, from this observer of multiple angles of different body-worn (cameras), that it was a scene that was orderly, controlled and strategic.”
Indeed, it was more like a scene from UFC in which the officers stood around watching and yelling at the two men fighting. But because they wore badges, they got to kill the fighters.
A former Boston police lieutenant agreed with Cole stating that the number of officers on the scene certainly did not help the situation.
“(That supervisor), seemed to be more concerned with closing highway ramps and playing on the radio than directing the activities of his subordinates,” Nolan said. “So it seemed as though individual officers are taking it upon themselves to make use-of-force decisions without any kind of guidance or direction.”
“I think the more appropriate question is whether it was necessary,” Nolan said. “In my view, it didn’t have to happen. These guys didn’t have to get killed.”
They certainly did not need to die, or at the very least, Mendoza should not have been killed. Due to the chaotic scene created by police, however, that is what happened.
Former San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki blasted the response, correctly stating that the two men were fighting with a knife and there was no reason for four cops to open fire with guns.
“Could somebody have gotten a cut? Yeah, absolutely. But isn’t that what we pay and train and constantly train our officers to do?” Hamasaki said. “When things go bad, they are there to help a situation not become worse.”
“I was absolutely horrified to learn that SFPD officers shot and killed my client Mr. Mendoza,” said SF Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, who represented Mendoza in a former case. “He was an unhoused father who lived a life of desperation. In all of my interactions with him, he was very sweet and gentle, even though his struggle to survive often entangled him in the criminal legal system for mostly petty and non-violent offenses.”
Unfortunately, he will not have another chance to get his life back on track.
Below is the 3 hour video but the shooting starts around the 1 hour and 23 minute mark.