Police Chief Bill Scott provided information about the shooting at a virtual town hall on Friday after being criticized for remaining silent for more than a week about what happened on May 19, including whether the men were hit by police gunfire, how the men died and how much the officers had fired their weapons.
Police were dispatched to a San Francisco street under an overpass around 8 p.m. after a 911 caller reported a man who may have been homeless was violently beating someone under a tarp, the commander said of the San Francisco police, Paul Yep, at the town hall. The caller said the man appeared to have two large sticks or rods the size of baseball bats.
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When officers arrived, the two men were on the ground fighting and officers realized the two men had knives, Yep said. More police were called in to help and eventually more than a dozen officers were there, body camera footage shown on Friday showed.
Yep said the men refused to drop their knives, prompting an officer to fire foam bullets. Several other officers repeatedly shouted orders to drop the knives as officers pointed their guns at them.
In the camera footage, an officer says to MacFhionghain, “We don’t want to hurt you, okay?”
“We’re not going to shoot you,” the officer said. “I don’t want to shoot you. I need you to drop the knife, please.”
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After a nine-minute struggle, one of the men, Michael MacFhionghain, 57, began stabbing the other man, Rafael Mendoza, 49, prompting four officers to fire their weapons, Yep said. He said three handguns fired and one fired a rifle.
MacFhionghain, who was pronounced dead at the scene, died of multiple gunshot wounds and Mendoza died of a gunshot wound, Yep said, citing a report from the medical examiner’s office.
Yep said investigators recovered 11 pistol casings, one rifle casing, four foam projectiles and various casings from other weapons.
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Earlier this week, the state attorney general’s office announced it would investigate the shooting under a new state law that requires the California Department of Justice to investigate police shootings that lead to the death of unarmed civilians. Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office said in a statement Monday that the department considers the shooting eligible for investigation due to the “uncertainty” of what happened.
Scott said it was premature to say whether officers used appropriate force. San Francisco police have pledged to hold a town hall within 10 days of any shooting involving an officer.
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