An International Tragedy: Luis Gongora Pat Press Conference from Yucatan
EDITOR'S NOTE: An interpreter did English to Spanish translation during the press conference. The audience questions (all of which were in Spanish), at the end, were translated to Attorney Pointer for his responses. This is a transcript of attorney Pointer's statement and answers to questions by the attendees. The press conference included words from Luis Gongora's family and presentation of a quilt to the family to show our love and solidarity towards them. Further coverage of this from Poor Magazine is forthcoming.
FAMILY OF LUIS GONGORA-PAT SPEAKS AT PRESS CONFERENCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czJd1x8jSTE
Transcript of Press Conference on the Murder of Luis Gongora Pat
November 3, 2016
Merida, Yucatan (11:00 am local time)
Location: Merida, Yucatan: Salon CID del Hotel Castellano Gamma Merida
Attorney Adainte Pointer: I am the attorney for the family of Luis Gongora Pat. I practice law in the United States and I bring greetings from the US, but more importantly, I bring action on behalf of the Gongora-Pat family. This family has gathered every one here today and appreciates you coming out and being interested in their story. What was once a story of hopes and dreams and the pursuit of happiness was turned into a nightmare by two San Francisco police officers. Two San Francisco police officers robbed this family of their husband, their father, their brother, their cousin and their friend. As we near the six month anniversary of this happening--this took place on April 7th of 2016--it is imporant that we not only remember what took place, but that we take action to set the record straight. And one of the ways in which my law firm has done this, along with the family’s help and the community’s help in San Francisco is by reaching out to witnesses. And by talking with the witnesses and looking at the physical evidence, we know the police officers acted wrongly and they must be held accountable for unlawfully killing Luis Gongora Pat. In talking to the witnesses and looking at the physical evidence, we know that what happened on April 7, 2016 is wrong. My law firm filed a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit against the San Francisco city as well as the two police officers that robbed this family of their loved one. Since this tragedy took place, we have been organizing people, hundreds of people have come out to support this family. And I have travelled down here to show the family that there is hope in making this right. This is not only a San Francisco tragedy, but an international tragedy. What I will now do, is I will show you all and explain to you all what took place on this tragic day.
We have filed a lawsuit titled Luis Gongora vs. San Francisco. On April 7th of 2016, Mr. Gongora was in San Francisco. He was—it was during the day—he was playing with a (inaudible) enjoying himself as he often had been doing when he was not working. This is just minutes before the SF police arrived to the street. We know what took place because there was a surveillance camera located across the street from where the police shot and killed Mr. Gongora. And this is where the camera was located, directly across the street where Mr. Gongora was gunned down. When the SF police department arrived there, Mr. Gongora was sitting down minding his business, not threatening anyone, not harming anyone not doing anything that would cause the police to have to use deadly force to arrest him. But within 30 seconds, just 30 seconds the police officers, arriving on the scene, they shot 6 shots—bullets—six rubber bullets and 5 bullets into Mr. Gongora. The officers were called to the scene just to investigate the report of a man who had a knife. No one told the police that the man was doing anything with his knife. No one called the police and said their life was in danger because of this person who supposedly had a knife.
This right here is the incident. Two police cars come to the scene. And then a third one pulls up. The officer in the first car gets out. He (inaudible) has a shotgun in his hand. And within seconds he starts firing the shotgun, as if he was firing (at) an animal in the wild. You saw a lady who was walking by as the officer started firing their gun. What you can tell from the video, and I have copies of printouts for you—as the press—to have. What you can tell from the video is that Mr. Gongora is never seen running at the officers, but what you see are the officers pointing their guns in a downward direction and they fire a number of shots with their guns pointed down at the ground. Down at the ground, meaning, the target they were firing their guns at, who was Mr. Gongora, was not standing up, he was not coming at them but instead was either on the ground or going to the ground—meaning that he was not a threat to anyone—to the officers themselves, or anyone else who was out there. Now (to an audience member) is there a way we can turn this light on? This is important evidence.
Once again, it’s important to understand this—that the officer’s story was that Mr. Gongora was running at them with a knife trying to hurt them. But the officers--like it’s a gangster movie--one of the officers actually had 2 guns in his hand and was staring at the ground firing shot after shot after shot. No man should have to die in that way. My law firm took the original video and we slowed it down so that you can actually see, step by step, what the officers did. We sent this out to an expert who slowed it down frame by frame so you could see, shot by shot. I mentioned to you that it was not only the video that supported the fact that Mr. Gongora did not do what the officers said but was also the physical evidence. So we’ll go back. This is the incident as it was recorded (Video of the incident playing). As I said, you see the police cars. This officer here is the first officer that starts shooting. He has a shotgun in his hand. (inaudible) rubber bullets. The second officer comes over and starts yelling. Now, they’re yelling at Mr. Gongora in English. Mr. Gongora didn’t understand English. The first officer starts firing the gun, which had rubber bullets. The second officer who did not have a gun with rubber bullets but had a gun with real bullets also started shooting. Both officers fired their gun at the same time. As you will notice, there is a third officer. The third officer didn’t even pull his gun out, which proves that he didn’t even see Mr. Gongora as a threat at all. The two officers that did use their guns were overly aggressive and violated their training and oath to the public.
Police officers in the United States are trained to deescalate a situation. What they should have done in the situation is walk out in and talk to Mr. Gongora, evaluate what was going on, try to set up a perimeter and not rush in to provoke a confrontation—a confrontation they were certain to win because, in the worst case scenario, Mr. Gongora had a knife, and they had guns. Remember, this all happened in less than 30 seconds—22 seconds to be exact. That’s less time than a commercial you see on television for someone to lose his life. Now, I will show you the incident, slowed down. Now you see the officer walk over, he has the shotgun in his hands. He starts firing at Mr. Gongora right here at this moment. Mr. Gongora is sitting down, I’m sure he’s scared to have a gun pointed directly at him. Mr. Gongora is sitting just off the edge of this (inaudible). They walked over to him letting him know they were not scared of him. In fact, you see the witness looking on. The officer start shooting, it’s at this point he has both his guns down and starts shooting. This is an even slower version of it, blown up so you can see what the officers are doing. My apologies to the family for having to see this tragedy. (Inaudible) as if hunting down a prey. They fire seven bullets and struck Mr. Gongora 6 times. One of the other reasons why we know that Mr. Gongora was not running at or charging the officers because of where his gunshot wounds and entry wounds were at. Looking at this video, we see the officer at the edge, and Mr. Gongora would be to their right. So, if the officers are off to their right, standing here, and I’m Mr. Gongora and you shoot at me and I’m not facing you, the bullets would hit me to my right side, right? If I was charging at you, it means I’m facing you and the bullets would hit in the front. Now, these pictures are going to be graphic, and once again, I don’t want to offend anyone, but this is what the SF police did to this family’s love one.
So the first image we’re going to show—remember I told you they shot him a number of times with bean bags. The bean bag rounds were on the right side of his body. And this is actually on the right side of his body, in terms of his arm. It caused bruising to his forearm as well as his wrist. Now, I’m going to show you how he was shot, not only on his right side, but also his back--which also proves he was not facing the officers when they shot him. Looking at this photo, you can see that he had two bruises to his back, here (pointing), as well as here. Three brusies, in a triangle. But he also had a gunshot wound to his right shoulder—in the back of his right shoulder. The next picture shows (inaudible). As you can see from this picture, the officer has his gun pointed down and he’s still firing his gun. Mr. Gongora, as I showed you before, has a gunshot to his right shoulder. And this shows you how it entered his body, which is going downward. This is one that shows the gunshot wound which enters his head, and its our position that he could only get that position, that gunshot wound if he was low to the ground, because you have to be lower than the gun that fired the bullet (inaudible). Mr. Gongora was either on the ground or going to it when the officers fired the fatal shots. As you can see from this photo, the bullet went from the top of his forehead downward. Mr. Gongora had to be below the gun and the officer when they fired that shot. He was not standing up. He was either going to the ground or on the ground when that shot took place. Remember, it only took 30 seconds, it only took less than 30 seconds to steal this family’s husband, father, cousin, brother, and friend. We are here to demand that San Francisco and those two police officers be held accountable, that they restore honor to this family, and that they receive the justice they deserve. We demand justice for the family of Luis Gongora Pat. We filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco and the police officers in federal court and we’re going to hold the officers accountable. We have sued them for violation of this family’s rights. I have copies of the lawsuit here with me. I will make them available to you, members of the press and the public. Justice for the family of Luis Gongora Pat…thank you.
Questions from Audience
Audience Member: Are the officers suspended or still working?
Attorney Pointer: The officers are still working. They are still patrolling the streets of San Francisco. And we think that is a shame. That’s why the family had to take action into their own hands by filing a lawsuit because the police department and the mayor will not hold their officers accountable.
Audience Member: What are the names of the officers and in what neighborhood did this take place?
Attorney Pointer: This took place in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. And the two officers that were involved are Michael Mellone and Nate Steger.
Audience Member: Do you think this was a case of racial bias against a migrant?
Attorney Pointer: I think this is a case of officers violating their oath and violating their training. I think that bias plays into how the police react to people in San Francisco. Many people in San Francisco wonder of the officers were biased because there was a white man who had a gun who had been brought into custody without shooting him or harming him in any way. And he was threatening officers with a gun.
Audience Member: (Inaudible)
Attorney Pointer: San Francisco police cars do not have cameras. Fortunately, there was a camera at the apartment across the street. If it was not for that camera there, we would only have the police version of what happened.
Audience Member: How has the relationship been with the Mexican authorities regarding this case?
Attorney Pointer: I have been interacting with the Mexican consulate and asking them to assist us in our fight for justice. We need them to put pressure on the US government , San Francisco in particular, to make sure this family receive the justice they deserve. In this time of tragedy, this family is in need of all the support we can give, not only from the government of Mexico, but the people. And that’s why we’re having this press conference here.
Audience Member: How long will it take the court to give us a final resolution?
Attorney Pointer: We just filed a lawsuit and the court is going to set a trial date which is anywhere from a year and a half to two years from now. It’s a long process.
Audience Member: When was the lawsuit filed?
Attorney Pointer: The lawsuit was actually filed on October 7th
Audience Member: What has been the response of the authorities in the US?
Attorney Pointer: The response is not one of which an honorable government should be. The San Francisco city government should be offering this family its support as well. It should be holding those officers accountable. Those officers should be in jail.
Audience Member: What have they said?
Attorney Pointer: They try to justify what happened by saying that they followed all the rules, but they didn’t.
Poor Magazine: They came down to the area where the witnesses were living on the street and they threatened them if they didn’t move and leave within 3 minutes, they would be arrested. My son and I and other people from POOR Magazine witnessed that. It is very typical for the police to try to (inaudible) the witnesses.
Audience Member: what is the government like in San Francisco:
Attorney Pointer: There is a democratic mayor in place. Many of the board of supervisors are democrat but they still have not come out to support the people.
Poor Magazine: Can I add also that the government supports the rich people in San Francisco, not the poor people.
Audience Member: What is the consequence of the lawsuit filed?
Attorney Pointer: The consequence of the lawsuit filed is 3 parts. First part, the truth will come out. We hope to have the police department change its training and policies so this never happens again. And the city needs to do right by this family by providing them with financial support.
Audience Member: Do you seek that the officers go to jail?
Attorney Pointer: The prosecutor is in charge of that process. The family, myself and supporters have been putting pressure to try to get the officers arrested.
Audience Member: Have there been more cases in San Francisco?
Attorney Pointer: Yes, unfortunately the United States, particularly San Francisco, has a long track record of allowing its police officers to do things like this. And this is not the first time that police officers unlawfully killed someone. I have been working as an attorney doing this close to 12 years. And I have represented many, many families—too many families.
Audience member: What is the feeling of the people of San Francisco regarding these cases and do they feel these cases of racial bias have increased?
Attorney Pointer: I think the people of San Francisco are frustrated and there are many people in San Francisco who are outraged. But there are not enough people who are willing to stand up. I think that because today, many people in the United States and many people here carry phones that have cameras and videos on them, we now see more of this stuff on the internet than we’ve ever seen before. But that does not mean it’s happening more, it’s just being captured on video more.
Audience Member: Is there any proof that he (Gongora) had a knife in his hand?
Attorney Pointer: If you take the police officers at their word, they say he had a knife in his hand. If you listen to the witnesses who have nothing to gain, they say he did not have a knife when he was shot by the police officers. (Long pause) He was an undocumented worker but he had rights just like anyone else. If the city of San Francisco can take his life, they have an estrangement with basic human rights.
Audience Member: (inaudible)
Attorney Pointer: We have considered taking cases like this to the International Human rights commission. It’s my understanding that the UN has put out some studies as well as reports about police brutality in the US so we hope the international community will start taking a look at these cases. That’s why we came here. This is not just a San Francisco story, it’s an international story.
End of Attorney Pointer’s remarks