San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Files Racial Justice Act Claim in Police Shooting Case

SFPD confronted Jose Corvera, who was riding a bike while pushing another bike, based on racial bias; Police carried out dangerous, unnecessary shootout

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is pursuing a Racial Justice Act (RJA) claim on behalf of 52-year-old Jose Corvera, who was racially profiled by San Francisco Police officers. Corvera faced trial in early November and a judge declared a mistrial after the jury hung. Several jurors expressed that they felt police confronted him for racially motivated reasons. The RJA hearing is set for Dec. 13. The San Francisco District Attorney’s office is pursuing another trial that is scheduled to begin Dec. 29. 

Police pursued and confronted Corvera on Aug. 6, 2022 in the Mission District after seeing him riding a bike while pushing another bike on the sidewalk. Corvera suffers from serious mental health issues and speaks limited English. Corvera possessed a replica gun that shot blanks; it went off three times, one instance was when he dropped it. Rather than using de-escalation strategies like creating time and distance as required under SFPD policy, four officers began shooting at Corvera while barking confusing orders in English. Police sprayed the residential area with bullets, even shooting at homes and through the windshield of their own police cruiser. Police also brought two military-style armored vehicles to the scene. 

“Mr. Corvera was unjustly singled out by the police based on racial stereotypes of Latinx people, of the unhoused, and of their rights to possess things like bikes,” said Deputy Public Defender Kathleen Natividad. “It’s extremely unlikely police would have treated a white person the same way. It was unfair and prejudicial to presume that his possession of the bikes must be connected to a criminal act like theft. Making matters worse, police reacted to Mr. Corvera’s mental health crisis with an aggressive, militarized response that put local residents in danger.”

California’s Racial Justice Act allows a person charged with a crime to challenge racial bias in their cases. On Dec. 13, the court will decide whether Corvera has made a strong enough preliminary argument to hold a further hearing that will look closer at whether the charges were based on race, ethnicity and/or national origin. If the court determines that charges were in violation of the RJA, it could reduce or dismiss the charges. The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office also plans to file a complaint about the police conduct in this case with the city Department of Police Accountability.

“It’s important to call out racial bias, and we urge the court to grant Mr. Corvera the opportunity to make his case that race played a role in how police reacted to him,” said elected San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “We also urge the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss this case, as it’s clear jurors are likely to once again decide that the police’s actions were racially motivated and improper.”

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