One San Francisco police officer fired three rounds that killed a man who reached for a gun after a three-hour standoff where he had been drinking and snorting cocaine, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
In videos released Friday by police, Sergio Barrios is seen touching a pistol he had thrown on the ground as officers yell for him to refrain, before four officers opened fire.
Three of those officers fired foam bullets at the man, who had allegedly broken into an apartment in Bernal Heights.
While Police Chief Bill Scott said that the department’s policy is to escalate force options by first using less-lethal tools like foam bullets, he did not comment on why events unfolded as they did, with officers using multiple kinds of force almost simultaneously. But he did note that a “lethal cover officer” is required on scene in case less-lethal options fail.
The officer who fired the fatal rounds has been involved in two other shootings, one fatal.
The scene of the fatal police shooting was described by police officials at an online community meeting Friday where they released the name of the officer who used lethal force—Greg Buhagiar—and video from the scene. Police did not release the names of the three other officers who used force.
The incident began when a neighbor of Barrios’, who lives in an adjacent apartment in the 100 block of Bosworth Street, called 911 at 2:20 p.m. May 19, Cmdr. Paul Yep said at the meeting. The caller said that Barrios had broken into his apartment and had a gun.
Surveillance footage around that time showed Barrios walking near the backyard with an ax over his shoulder.
When the first police arrived, the caller directed them to an alley between a house and a garage where Barrios was standing with a pistol in his hand, video showed.
Several officers then ordered Barrios to drop the gun, which he did. For the next three and a half hours, more than 50 officers and others responded to the scene in an effort to deescalate the situation.
Events that led up to the fatal shooting involved repeated efforts to talk to Barrios in Spanish and English, with the aid of his family and recordings of their voices, translators and a hostage negotiation team.
For much of the standoff, Barrios was listening to music with headphones, snorting what police believe was cocaine and drinking from two bottles of alcohol.
“He’s got coke on a dollar bill,” said one officer at the scene, according to police. "He's snorting coke right now."
Despite efforts to communicate, Barrios often appeared to ignore the many efforts made to have him move away from the pistol he had thrown on the ground.
At one point before he was killed, “Mr. Barrios removed his rosary and held it in his hand,” Yep said at the meeting.
Body-worn cameras show Barrios first take off his rosary and then reach for keys beside his gun. As officers surrounding him yell, “no, no,” he reaches for the gun, and appears to toss it away from him as four officers open fire—three with launchers shooting 40 mm foam bullets and one with a loaded rifle.
Video from 22-year veteran Buhagiar’s body-worn camera shows him fire three rounds from a rooftop perch above Barrios.
In private surveillance video, Barrios can be seen falling back after he is struck by fire. Officers then approach to treat him for his injuries.
He was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital, police said.
The shooting remains under investigation by police, the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Police Accountability.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]