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Advocates question San Diego Police shooting of homeless man

San Diego Police release video of officer-involved shooting
Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 20:33:35-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A six-minute video released this week by San Diego Police shows the moments before during and after an officer shot a man in downtown San Diego.

Homeless advocates are questioning the decisions made that led to the shooting. The video initially shows someone on the street telling officer Kelly Besker about a man who's allegedly holding a knife and acting crazy.

A few minutes later, Besker meets that man, 69-year-old Stephen Wilson. Wilson's walking around the street corner, he's got food in his hands and his belongings scattered all over the ground.

RELATED: San Diego Police release video after officer shoots man with knife

"I got some reports of you acting a little strange over here in possession of a knife. I am strange I don't have a knife," the officer says in the video.

Besker asks Wilson to put the food down, but he says no and that he's hungry and keeps eating.

Later, Besker asks about the belongings on the ground. Wilson says someone hit his stuff. The situation quickly escalates, as Wilson tells the two officers to "back off."

"He said someone knocked his cart over...You've got a knife in your back pocket do not grab that knife," the officer says.

Police say Wilson grabbed a knife from his back pocket, brought it forward, and released it. They say the sound of the first gunshot can be heard at about the same time he released the grip on the knife.

"What was that a taser gun, I didn't pull it on you," Wilson is heard saying.

Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego chapter of the NAACP, said the video is "very troubling and concerning." The organization called for the release of the video after the shooting.

"He told you that he was hungry, so where was the urgency, where was the threat, why didn't we step back and call the PERT team? Why didn't we call the K9 team," Maxwell said.

According to the SDPD, officer Besker was assigned to the neighborhood policing division and that division is responsible for quality of life issues such as homelessness.

Micheal McConnell, an advocate for people experiencing homelessness, also questioned the officer's decision to use a gun.

"The police officer should have just backed off a little bit and recognized what the situation was," said McConnell.

ABC 10News showed the video to retired officer Kevin LaChapelle, who said in the split second moment it's hard for an officer to determine the intent of the person and the video doesn't always tell the whole story.

"There are witness statements for people and all sorts of other things also the history of the person," said LaChapelle.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office will investigate and decide if Besker faces any criminal liability.