SAN FRANCISCO — An off-duty Richmond police officer was reported acting bizarrely before he fired multiple shots throughout a ritzy San Francisco hotel early Sunday, according to police radio recordings of the episode reviewed by this newspaper.
San Francisco police identified Phillip Sanchez, a 45-year-old Richmond sergeant, as the suspect in the active shooter incident, according to the recordings. The San Francisco County jail reported that Sanchez was booked on four felony counts: discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, firing at an inhabited enclosure, assault with a firearm and vandalism of more than $400. His bail was listed at $290,000.
He was released from the jail Monday afternoon after posting bail, said his attorney, Harry Stern.
“By all accounts, this incident is completely out of character; thus we are attempting to ascertain exactly what took place and why,” Stern said in a statement. “Witnesses report statements and behavior which may indicate a psychiatric episode. Everyone is extremely thankful that no one was injured.”
San Francisco police radio recordings indicate that law enforcement initially responded to reports of a hotel guest acting strangely around 4:55 a.m., but the intensity quickly ratcheted up after witnesses told first responders that the suspect fired multiple times on the 17th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street. After almost two hours, with hotel guests sheltering in place and police sweeping the high-rise, the veteran Richmond police officer surrendered peacefully and was arrested around 6:30 a.m., San Francisco police Officer Robert Rueca said.
San Francisco police say no one was injured, and officers recovered a handgun and shell casings from the hotel, all of which came from the same gun. They have no idea what led to the strange behavior and shooting.
“We have nothing yet on what the suspect was shooting at,” Rueca said. “We don’t have a motive for why this happened.”
The Richmond cop will be placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation by both agencies, Richmond police Lt. Felix Tan said. Neither department has named the suspect officially to news outlets, and Richmond police did not return messages asking for comment Monday.
The initial call to police came as a suspicious hotel guest, but he was immediately identified as a Richmond officer.
“He’s walking erratically through the hotel calling for security, talking about spirits … ,” a dispatcher told responding officers, according to two hours of police audio. “The (reporting party) is stating this subject is a Richmond police officer and he doesn’t know if the subject is armed or not.”
The dispatcher continued saying the officer told his wife he was trying to get security to enter his room — identified as Room 604 — saying that “they know what is in there.”
Minutes later, a witness heard six or seven gunshots on the 17th floor, several rapid fire, according to the recordings.
Dispatchers put out an alert for all available officers to respond to a command post at O’Farrell and Grant streets. Officers blocked off Market Street and warned officers not to travel along that thoroughfare as the situation unfolded, according to the recordings.
Officers whispering to dispatchers could be heard giving their locations inside the hotel, many in stairwells. One reported back that he found eight 9mm shell casings on the 24th floor, according to the police audio.
At one point, dispatchers alerted officers he’s been spotted on the 12th floor.
“He’s last seen on his back. He has a black handgun in his hand,” a dispatcher told police.
Less than an hour into the search, officers reached the 12th floor, and Sanchez was arrested around 6:30 a.m. A San Francisco officer reported that he found two shell casings on that floor and a bullet hole through the glass by Room 1224, according to the recordings.
Police lifted a shelter-in-place order for guests around 6:45 a.m. at the hotel on the 700 block of Market Street.
“Just assessing the property damage, it seems relatively minor,” Rueca said Sunday of the damage inside.
The hotel, with rooms starting at $395 a night Monday, has 277 rooms and occupies the first 12 floors of the 42-story building. No obvious damage was visible inside the hotel and the various floors Monday afternoon, as Christmas music played inside and guests enjoyed holiday decorations. The 12th floor appeared to be under renovation.
Sanchez started working for Richmond police in 2008, and in a profile of the officer by online news site Richmond Confidential, he was described as someone who spoke in “measured tones that seem better-suited to a cubicle than a squad car.” In 2012, he won his third award for curbing drunk driving, tallying 101 DUI arrests that year.
In 2013, Sanchez became one of the first Richmond police officers to wear a body camera.
Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.
Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.
Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.
“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”
When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.
Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.
“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”
Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”
“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.
Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.
“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”
Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.
The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.
Both women on Monday night.
“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”
Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.
“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”
Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”
Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.
“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”
Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016
Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial
It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.
But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.
An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.
“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”
A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.
The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.
Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic
The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.
As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.
After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.
Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.
Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.
On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.
Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.
“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.
In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”
Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.
“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.
Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.
Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.
“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.
Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.
Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”
His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.
“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”