San Francisco police officers got into what was reported as a shootout with a suspect on Saturday they believed had a gun and was firing at them.
But new information revealed in court Wednesday explains that two officers opened fire on a man who may have been suffering from a mental health crisis and was firing a pistol that only shot blanks.
The suspect’s attorney claims that officers falsely believed his client was shooting live rounds at them, when in fact SFPD officers were firing at their fellow police officers.
The public defenders made the allegation based on information they had read in police reports of the incident.
“[Jose] Corvera had a replica firearm that does not shoot actual bullets. The only real bullets recovered at the scene were the result of the rounds that the officer fired,” said Deputy Public Defender Alexa Horner, who argued that police escalated the interaction with her client, who was walking down the street.
The details emerged in open court during the appearance and arraignment of 48-year-old Corvera, who entered a not guilty plea.
Officers tried to detain Corvera after they saw him with two bicycles in the Mission. He fled and took out a PAK .9 pistol, which had blank rounds that make a sound but do not fire bullets.
It’s unclear who opened fire first but the sound of gunfire rang out on Shotwell Street between 17th and 18th streets in the Mission, attorneys said. The incident began on 16th St. and South Van Ness Ave at around 7:55 a.m, police said.
Police say Corvera hid behind a vehicle and shot at them. Video shows a man taking cover behind a parked vehicle and pointing what appears to be a firearm at police.
At one point Corverva told police to “kill me,” according to the prosecution in the case. Finally, the video shows officers rushing at the suspect and arresting him.
The incident is the first San Francisco Police Department shooting since officers shot dead two apparently homeless men who fought for control of a knife under a freeway overpass in the Dogpatch in late May.
The District Attorney’s Office argued that whatever the circumstances of the case, Corvera should not be released from jail as he is a risk to himself and the public and has a track record of resisting officers.
“Mr. Corvera did not fire a projectile from his gun,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan Kao said, but said that Corvera’s actions could have led to someone's death because his use of a blank firing gun led officers to open fire since they feared for their lives.
In opposition to the DA’s detention motion, Horner argued that her client did not escalate the situation, police did, and that he had never been convicted of a felony before and never failed to appear in court. She added that Corvera is a San Francisco resident with a fixed address and two children who is not a flight risk or a danger but appeared to be suffering from a mental health crisis.
But Judge Brian Ferrall disagreed.
“Multiple witnesses heard and believed that Mr. Corvera had a gun and was firing that gun,” said Judge Ferrall, who ruled in favor of the DA’s no bail detention motion.
Regardless of his mental state, said the judge, the fact that his actions led to such a dangerous situation necessitated that he remain in jail.
The next court date for the case is Aug. 18.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org