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San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Condemns SFPD Killing of Two Men, Including Former Client Rafael Mendoza

SAN FRANCISCO – Last Thursday, members of the San Francisco Police Department shot and killed two men after being called to a reported assault in progress. While the SFPD released very few details until today’s town hall meeting, we learned earlier this week that one of the people they killed, Rafael Mendoza, was a former client of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and was represented by Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray. 

Ms. Pray, who spoke with the SF Standard this week, is issuing the following statement:

“I was absolutely horrified to learn that SFPD officers shot and killed my client Mr. Mendoza. He was an unhoused father who lived a life of desperation. In all of my interactions with him, he was very sweet and gentle, even though his struggle to survive often entangled him in the criminal legal system for mostly petty and non-violent offenses. The fact that he died at the hands of police, who found him injured and being threatened by a man with a knife, is an inexcusable tragedy. My deepest condolences go out to his family and I want them to know that he was loved and valued despite his circumstances.” 

Officers’ Body Worn Camera footage shown at today’s SFPD town hall showed at least a dozen officers gathered, yelling commands at close range, with weapons drawn on the two injured men who were largely frozen in combat under the same tarp on the ground. None of the officers attempted to identify language access needs until very late in the incident. Although the initial force used was from beanbag projectiles, officers quickly escalated to lethal force. It was later confirmed that both men died from the gunshot wounds.  

Public Defender Mano Raju commented:

“The inability or unwillingness of police to truly de-escalate harmful situations remains a paramount concern for public safety in San Francisco. The answer to violence is not more violence. Mr. Mendoza lived his life on the margins of society without having his basic needs met, but he still had rights. This is why we need to stop relying on police to prevent harm, but rather invest in non-police alternatives to help vulnerable people abate harm.”



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