San Francisco, CA – Teresa Sheehan, 56, was acquitted today of one count of making criminal threats. The jury hung 11-1 in favor of finding her not guilty of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of assault on a peace officer. Sheehan, who suffers from schizo-affective disorder, was shot six times by San Francisco police officers during the incident that resulted in her arrest and prosecution.
On the morning of August 7, 2008 police officers entered Sheehan’s apartment in a Mission District supportive housing facility after being summoned by a case manager who was concerned about her deteriorating mental health. Officer Kathleen Holder and Sergeant Kimberly Reynolds were the first to arrive at Sheehan’s apartment. According to Sheehan’s Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, the officers unlawfully entered the apartment without consent and in the absence of exigent circumstances. The officers reported that Sheehan responded to their entry by raising a knife and making threats. Rather than attempting to subdue Sheehan with non-lethal force, the officers opened fired on Sheehan. Sheehan was shot six times to her torso, hip, face, and arm, leaving Sheehan without use of her right arm and temporarily confined to a wheelchair. Officer Holder testified that Sheehan was on the ground when the last shot was fired into her face.
Sheehan was hospitalized until August 22, when she was transferred to San Francisco County Jail. Due to medical complications attributed to one of her injuries, she was readmitted to San Francisco General Hospital on September 19 where she has been held on $200,000 bail.
In closing arguments, Deputy Public Defender Hathaway described the prosecution of this case as “an attempt to cover up disgraceful policing.” Hathaway argued that police used excessive force and ignored standard protocol on how to respond to the mentally ill.
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.