Ajmal Amani was possibly suffering from a mental health crisis when he was shot dead by two police officers on November 19 at the Covered Wagon Hotel in SoMa. During a virtual community meeting held on Wednesday afternoon, the SFPD confirmed that Officer John Quinlan fired at the gun that killed Amani, while Officer Danny De Leon Garcia fired with a ball gun .
Amani, 41, was wielding a knife on the morning of November 19 and had engaged in heated exchanges with staff at the CW hotel on Folsom Street near Fifth Street. The hotel provides transitional accommodation for people who have been involved in the criminal justice system or who have been released from prison.
Amani had a history of mental health issues, confirmed by her case manager, who called 911 minutes after the hotel. The case manager told the dispatcher that Amani was suffering from PTSD and may be suffering from a psychotic episode. Amani was previously an interpreter for the US government in Afghanistan.
By the time Amani’s case manager hung up, saying she was on her way to the scene, two agents from Southern Station had already arrived, according to the dispatcher in the recording of the 911 call.
Surveillance footage from the hotel, which was shown to the public on Wednesday afternoon at a community town hall meeting, showed Amani walking the hallways with a knife and chatting agitatedly with two employees from the hotel, who brandish brooms when approaching as if to keep their distance. An employee ended up calling 911 for assistance.
One of the few public commentators at the community meeting – held the day before Thanksgiving but already with over 1,500 views on Facebook on Wednesday night – asked whether the officers could have taken a different approach had they been told that Amani could have had a mental health crisis.
Police Chief Bill Scott said that whatever the situation, officers are trained to defuse, keep their distance and take the time to avoid the use of force, but added that “sometimes it works. good results, and sometimes the situation dictates others action. ”
When asked if having a mental health expert at the scene would have helped, Scott said: “We wouldn’t want anything more than that.”
Officers Quinlan and Garcia arrive at the hotel at 8:10 am and ask two employees for background information, then call for reinforcements.
After a brief interaction when Amani enters the hallway and then hurries out of sight, Quinlan and Garcia retreat and wait in the hallway. They position themselves in the doors at the end of the hallway from where Amani’s bedroom is out of sight around the corner.
Around the corner, Amani yells at the police to shut up and leave him alone, and tells the police to shoot him.
Suddenly, Amani turns around the corner and quickly rushes down the hall to the officers – both of whom deploy their weapons in quick succession. It is not known which officer fired first, but in less than 10 seconds Amani is down; he turns around with his head and chest out of sight.
According to department policy, an officer with a “less lethal” weapon is paired with an officer holding a gun, Commander Paul Yep said at Wednesday’s community meeting.
“The Lethal Cover Officer is appointed to protect the Least Deadly Officer and is ready to deploy lethal force options if necessary,” Yep said. But in the video, it appears that the two officers started shooting practically at the same time.
Yep said Quinlan fired four shots and Garcia discharged the pouf gun three times. Amani suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen and another near the groin, according to officers who eventually lent a hand.
After Amani is shot, he moans and writhes on the ground, and the officers shout at him to get down and show his hands, stepping back. They don’t help immediately, apparently waiting for agents to arrive less than a minute later.
But then the reinforcement officers also don’t approach to rescue – for the next three minutes, they search for a tactical shield that has been left in the car. Amani’s knife is still near him on the ground. Eventually, the officers approach and take the knife, roll up a blood-soaked Amani and handcuff him, then only begin to rescue. The doctors arrive a few minutes later.
Within minutes of the shooting, Garcia, who has the pouf gun, can be heard sigh and breathe deeply, while Quinlan, still holding his gun, reassures him that all is well.
The police department presented the video footage and audio recordings to the public without any interpretation as to whether the officers’ actions were in line with policy, citing an ongoing investigation. When asked why it has taken so long to provide assistance, Scott said that when guns are involved officers are trained to formulate a plan before approaching.
“We do not draw any conclusions as to whether the officers acted in accordance with our policies and the law, until the facts are known and the investigation is complete,” Yep said.
Scott also offered his condolences to Amani’s family, “without suggesting any premature judgment on the appropriateness of the force used” in the incident.
Although officers spoke to two hotel employees upon their arrival and throughout their interactions with Amani, no witnesses at the scene of the incident have yet been formally questioned, Yep said.
Multiple investigations into the shooting – by the district attorney’s office, the police accountability department, the medical examiner’s office and divisions of the police department – are ongoing.
In some cases, the California Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into the shootings involving officers, but Scott said investigators from the DOJ Police Shooting Team have determined that the incident did not respond to requirements for them to investigate.
An hour was set aside for community comments and questions, but after only a handful of questions, the meeting was adjourned due to lack of public participation.