Losing a child is one of the most difficult things that could happen to a parent. Finding out that one’s child was murdered unjustifiably by the very people who have sworn to serve and protect the community is unthinkable for most. For San Francisco’s Gwen Woods and Elvira and Refugio Nieto, it is a cold reality. Both of their young sons were gunned down in a barrage of bullets by the San Francisco Police Department.
City College criminal justice student Alex Nieto was sitting in Bernal Hill Park near the house he grew up in. He was eating a burrito before going to work as a security guard at El Toro nightclub. A dog walker in the park called 911 to report a man with a gun. The gun was actually a federally licensed taser that Alex lawfully carried for his security job. The fact that Alex was a scholarship student, practicing Buddhist pacifist and had the goal of becoming a probation officer meant nothing when the police arrived on the scene. The 28 year old was hit with 15 out of 59 bullets fired by SFPD and pronounced dead at the scene on March 21, 2014. Almost 2 years later his parents have received no justice for the unnecessary murder of their son. No officers have been charged with any wrong doing.
In San Francisco’s Bayview District on December 2, 2015, 26 year old Mario Woods found himself surrounded by a dozen police officers with guns drawn. He was allegedly carrying a kitchen knife and was suspected of stabbing a man earlier that afternoon. The officers cornered Mario against a wall and then decided that their only option was to shoot him multiple times and kill him. The officers involved in the murder were put on standard administrative leave but no charges have been filed against them.
The pain and suffering that the surviving parents have to live with is unimaginable. Somehow these 3 parents have found the strength to continue to fight for justice for the murders of their sons. For the Nietos, it has been a long battle that they continue to endure. Gwen Woods lost her son just one month ago and is still heavily grieving. On January 6, 2016 the two families and their supporters marched through the streets of San Francisco. The Nietos began at an alter on Bernal Hill where there son was taken from them. Gwen Woods and supporters began their march from the location of her son’s death on 3rd St in Bayview. The two groups came together in solidarity outside of the Bayview Police Headquarters. Community members from Bayview/Hunter’s Point, The Mission and Bernal Heights stood in a circle demanding justice. A nearly equal number of police in riot gear surrounded the area outside the station as rain pounded down. Two communities, primarily black and brown, vowed to stand together in the fight for justice and the safety of their children, brothers and sisters.