San Diego police flacks at first claimed one of their officers shot a homeless man because he “drew a knife and threatened the officer.”
But now that the body camera video shows the man dropping the knife, the police spokespeople are claiming the homeless man “drew a knife which threatened the officer.”
In other words, the mere presence of a knife in the hands of another person is perceived as enough of a threat to use deadly force, according to the San Diego Police PR Spin Machine.
“Why did you shoot me?” asked the homeless man, Stephen Wilson, in the moments after he was shot, according to the body camera footage released Wednesday.
“Because I told you not to grab the knife out of the back pocket,” responded San Diego police officer Kelly Besker.
“I was giving it to you,” Wilson replied.
“I told you not to grab it,” Besker said.
“I didn’t hear you,” Wilson said.
But Besker never gave the 69-year-old man a chance, firing three shots less than a second after he told Wilson “do not grab that knife.” The video also shows Wilson dropping the knife within a second of pulling it out of his back pocket and before Besker fired his shots.
Wilson probably would have never reached for the knife had the cop not panicked after spotting the kitchen knife in Wilson’s back pocket.
“Hey, you got a knife in your back pocket,” which is what prompted Wilson to reach into his pocket and drop the knife. Prior to that, Wilson was eating something out of a bowl.
Wilson survived the shooting and has been listed in stable condition at a local hospital.
The incident took place February 25 after a man walked up to Besker on a street corner to inform him about Wilson and his erratic behavior.
“There’s a dude on the corner and he has a kitchen knife and he’s acting crazy,” a man told Besker who was dealing with another homeless person on an unrelated matter.
Besker drove his patrol car to the corner where Wilson was standing on a sidewalk strewn with his personal belongings. He was eating out of a bowl and continued eating as the cop questioned him. He told the cop that somebody had pushed over his shopping cart with personal belongings.
He still had the bowl in his hand when the cop spotted the knife in his back pocket and he instinctively reached for it as soon as the cop mentioned it but immediately dropped it.
According to a San Diego Union-Tribune article dated February 25:
Someone flagged down the officer just after 7 p.m. to report a man with a knife near Third Avenue and G Street, Freedman said. The officer was told the armed man was “causing pedestrians to feel fearful and making them move out into the street to avoid him.”
The officer approached the man, “who was standing on the southwest corner amidst a good deal of debris and holding a bowl of food,” homicide Lt. Andra Brown said in a news release Friday morning.
Brown said that as the officer spoke with the man, he pulled out the knife — despite an order not to touch it — and threatened the officer.
The officer shot the man at least once in his torso, Freedman said.
But now that the truth has come out, homeless advocates are outraged, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune article dated March 3.
Michael McConnell, an advocate for homeless people, called Wilson’s shooting “very disturbing” and argued the officer “shot someone who obviously needed help.” He said the video showed “even in the state (Wilson) was in, he was in total disbelief he was shot.”
McConnell argued the video showed Wilson was not a threat, but was focused on his meal and his scattered possessions, which Wilson told police someone had knocked over.
State laws dictating when officers are justified in using deadly force changed in 2020 with the implementation of AB 392, which allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force only when “necessary,” when their life or the lives of others are in imminent danger and when there is no other alternative to de-escalate the situation, such as using non-lethal methods.
The legislation marked a change from the previous standard, which allowed using deadly force when an officer had a “reasonable” fear of imminent harm.
Watch the edited video above and the full video released by police here.