The officer who shot and killed a South San Francisco teenager at a gas station in June feared for his life and the shooting was a lawful response to the boy’s actions that night, according to a statement by San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe yesterday.
Family and friends of the slain teen, Derrick Gaines, said yesterday, however, they do not believe the officer needed to shoot him. His mother and great aunt were planning a speakout and rally Sept. 20 to demand justice for Gaines, who they say was a victim of police brutality.
Sept. 20 would have been the teen’s 16th birthday.
His great aunt Dolores Piper, however, told the Daily Journal in an emotional response yesterday that she is not sure the rally will take place after the District Attorney’s Office announced its findings yesterday. Gaines lived with Piper from about the age of 3.
Gaines was shot June 5 at the Arco gas station at about 9 p.m. after he and another teen were stopped by South San Francisco police Officer Joshua Cabillo, who suspected the teen was carrying drugs or possibly a weapon due to his suspicious behavior.
The officer told Gaines to put his hands in the air and the teen started to comply before fleeing the scene. The officer gave chase and caught up to him quickly before grabbing his clothing and striking him on the back of the head with a gun, according to a letter sent by Wagstaffe to South San Francisco Police Chief Mike Massoni yesterday.
As Gaines fell to the ground, a gun fell from his person onto the ground close to the teen’s knee, according to the letter to Massoni.
"Before Officer Cabillo could even manage to say the words ‘don’t,’ Mr. Gaines lifted up his shoulders, began to sit up, and with his right hand reached across his body toward the firearm on the ground by his left side. At that point, Officer Cabillo believed that the subject was reaching for the firearm. Officer Cabillo concluded that he did not have enough time to get to the firearm before the subject would, and believed that once the firearm was seized by Gaines that it would be used on the officer. Fearing for his life, Officer Cabillo fired a shot, which hit the subject in the neck,” Wagstaffe wrote in the letter to Massoni.
The officer immediately started life-saving techniques on Gaines, who died later at a hospital. It was later determined that the gun Gaines was carrying, a .45 revolver, was inoperable due to the absence of a firing pin.
An autopsy showed Gaines had cocaine, methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood. Both marijuana and methamphetamine pills were also recovered from his person upon removal of his clothing, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Cabillo has been on paid administrative leave since the incident and will not face criminal charges.
Friends of Gaines and his family expressed disappointment in the district attorney’s findings yesterday.
"It is unbelievable,” said family friend Georgeann Farrar. "Seriously, I don’t think it is justified at all.”
Farrar, a family friend for 10 years who visited with the teen earlier in the day before he was shot, said Gaines had some troubles but should not have been killed.
He lived with Piper, who resides near the scene of the shooting.
Piper and Gaines’ mother, Rachel Guido-Red, had been planning a speakout and march at the gas station Sept. 20, which would have been his 16th birthday.
"We want to make sure this man, the officer who shot Derrick, will not be on the streets. We want his job, and I want him behind bars,” Guido-Red wrote in a media advisory announcing the planned march Tuesday before the District Attorney’s Office announced its findings yesterday.
Family attorney John Burris could not be reached for comment yesterday. Burris, a civil rights attorney, is famous for representing the family of Oscar Grant, slain by a BART police officer in 2009. Grant’s family was awarded millions in two separate civil suits.
Wagstaffe sent the letter to Massoni yesterday explaining the office’s findings.
"It is my conclusion that the use of lethal force under the circumstances encountered by Officer Cabillo on that date, although tragic, was justifiable pursuant to the provisions of California Penal Code Section 196,” Wagstaffe wrote in the letter to Massoni.
Cabillo noticed that Gaines continued to make furtive gestures with his hands in his waist area at the gas station on Westborough and Gellert boulevards. Cabillo was suspicious that the decedent was hiding some type of contraband, such as drugs or weapons, due to Gaines’ furtive gestures and evasive movements, in an attempt to avoid the officer, according to Wagstaffe’s letter.
Gaines and his friend Remy Carrillo kept looking over their shoulders at the officer, causing Cabillo to become increasingly suspicious, according to the letter.
Minutes later, Cabillo shot Gaines in the neck as the teen was reaching for the .45, according to the letter.
Multiple witnesses corroborated the officer’s telling of the story, according to the letter.
After Gaines’ death, officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People rallied at the scene of the teen’s shooting to protest police brutality and harassment.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.