Earlier today, I was sitting at my desk, working and listening to music on my noise-cancelling headphones. Out of nowhere, everyone around me stands up with their laptops/bags in hand, and starts moving towards the back of the office. Someone approaches me – I take out an earbud, thinking they’re about to tell me to come to an impromptu meeting – and they say “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I ask.
They told me that shots were just fired right in front of our office. I grab my laptop and my bag and start moving back with everyone else. We stand around, confused, before someone declares that the police now have the area under control, and the suspect was down.
Against my better judgement, I move to the front of the office where a few other people are looking out of the window, and pull aside the blind. I don’t see the victim, but I can see the head of a paramedic bobbing up and down from behind a parked car, performing CPR.
Blood is coming out from under the car and pouring onto the street. A lot of blood.
More blood than I’ve ever seen in person before.
Luis showed up a few months ago on Shotwell Street with a few other homeless people. At first, I was wary of him – I assumed he was probably mentally ill, and had a habit of kicking and throwing various balls around on the street, against walls, or along the sidewalk. Sometimes he’d just jog around the block.
He never directly interacted with me, and I soon found that he was harmless, like the rest of the homeless people on the street. I also learned that he’d occasionally kick a soccer ball to random, friendly-looking people – like Jesse, who’d have fun kicking it back to him.
Like everyone else, he was trying to get by the best way he knew how. He wasn’t there to hurt anyone.
After a few minutes, some of us move outside to ask the police what happened. They told us that he had a large knife, and refused to drop it or get on the ground. They said he tried to charge at them, and that’s when they shot him with the beanbag rifle.
According to the police, the beanbags weren’t “effective”, so they opened fire.
I show an officer where our security camera is, in case it’s helpful. I was thankful that they’d responded to the situation so quickly. I thought, what if I was out there with the knife-wielding maniac?
I left for a doctor’s appointment.
At home, later this afternoon, I log on to start working, and start seeing the news stories pop up:
“a suspect brandishing a 10-12 inch knife”
“the suspect refused to drop the knife”
“to protect the public from harm, the officers had to discharge their weapons”
I stumble across video interviews with two other homeless people from the street (who I recognize). They’re crying. They know his name.
They say it’s José, but it’s actually Luis.
They’re always telling him to stop kicking the ball around because it annoys them.
They say he barely speaks English.
They say he never charged at police.
They say the knife was tucked into his waistband.
They say he was walking in circles, confused, because he didn’t understand what the police were saying, because he barely speaks English.
They say everyone carries a knife around here. It’s for protection.
They say he never threatened anyone, not even today.
Another eyewitness account says he never charged at police, and that he was already on the ground when he was shot.
This doesn’t add up.
Why is Luis dead?