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When apologies don’t cut it: Lawsuit seeks truth and compensation from police shooting case

SFPD officers mingle on the National Night Out 2021. | Mike Kuba

Attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking restitution for a police shooting that hospitalized Xavier Pittman last May.

The lawsuit alleges that Pittman was complying with his arrest when San Francisco police officer Zachary McAuliffe shot him in the wrist. McAuliffe was dressed in plain clothes on an undercover auto burglary investigation and said his firearm accidentally went off. The lawsuit seeks financial compensation from the City and County of San Francisco and disclosures about McAuliffe’s record as an SFPD officer.

Filing attorney Adante Pointer told The Standard that the case raises concerns about the accountability of plain-clothed officers, who aren’t required to wear body cameras.  

“If there had not been a surveillance camera in that alleyway, we would’ve never known the truth of what took place,” Pointer said. 

The incident occurred as officers detained Pittman for allegedly participating in a string of auto burglaries in the Richmond and Central police districts, according to an SFPD statement on the officer-involved shooting.  Video of the incident released by SFPD shows officers approaching Pittman with their guns drawn. Pittman was arrested again on burglary charges in August. 

Mike Hinckley, McAuliffe’s legal counsel, said in a statement that “he did not intend for his firearm to go off” and that “he sincerely apologizes to Mr. Pittman and wishes him a full and speedy recovery.” 

SFPD Police Chief Bill Scott issued a rare apology in response to the shooting. 

“The shooting of Mr. Pittman, quite simply, should not have happened,” Scott said. 

The lawsuit cites Scott’s statement as “the best summation of this unconstitutional police conduct.”

Pointer hopes that the lawsuit will force the police department to reveal details about McAuliffe’s record. 

“It’s rare that the police chief comes out and accepts responsibility, and for that, we appreciate his candor,” Pointer said. “But we should be focused and consider what the officers background is … Filing a lawsuit is one of the few avenues available for people who are injured, as well the public, to get that information.” 

McAuliffe is still a member of SFPD, according to a December roster.  

David Sjostedt can be reached at

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