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Man shot and killed by SF police was former Afghan interpreter

Years before San Francisco police shot and killed him, 41-year-old Ajmal Amani helped translate for Navy SEALS fighting in Afghanistan.

Amani was an Afghan interpreter who contracted with the U.S. government over the course of a decade, according to Scott Grant, a deputy public defender who later represented him in a criminal court case.

He survived being shot multiple times during his five-year tenure working with the military, but struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after coming to the U.S. on a visa in 2014, Grant said.

“He suffered some of the most horrific trauma anyone could have gone through,” Grant told the SF Standard.

Amani was shot and killed by police last Friday morning after officers responded to a report of a man with a knife at the Covered Wagon Hotel at 917 Folsom St., a residential hotel in South of Market.

The San Francisco Police Department has yet to release further details about the shooting or name the officers involved. But sources familiar with the investigation said one officer fired a beanbag gun at the suspect when he advanced on police with a knife, while another officer shot him with a firearm.

Sources identified the officers as John Quinlan, a rookie who joined the force in March 2020, and Danny De Leon Garcia, a three-year veteran. (There are two officers named John Quinlan at SFPD, one with more experience.) Attorneys for the involved officers declined to comment on their behalf.

This was not the first time Amani had a run-in with the law.

In November 2019, Amani was arrested after crashing a woman’s car near the Seventh Street off-ramp of Highway 80 in San Francisco. He was accused of using a boxcutter to cut a city park ranger who stopped at the scene of the crash and tried to pull him from the vehicle, according to Grant.

Grant said Amani was in the midst of a “clear mental health episode.”

Amani faced attempted murder and other charges in connection with the incident, but a judge dismissed the attempted murder charge at a preliminary hearing, Grant said. The remaining assault charges against him were dismissed after he completed mental health diversion in August.

“The amount of work and transformation that he was able to do was unmatched,” Grant said. “He was an inspiration in how much he accomplished.”

At the time of his graduation from diversion, he was living in transitional housing at the CW Hotel—where police ultimately shot and killed him.

Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers, said the union is providing representation for the officers involved.

“This is a tragic incident,” Montoya said. “You not only have to look at the person who was shot but the trauma on the involved officers.”

The SFPD is expected to hold a virtual meeting Wednesday at 3 p.m. to release more details. The video will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook.