Jessica Williams: Homeless woman killed by San Francisco police
Jessica Nelson, who would later adopt the name Jessica Williams, was a homeless mother of five kids with one on the way when she was gunned down by San Francisco police on May 19, 2016.
Cylinka Micra, a homeless man who knew Williams, told the San Francisco Gate that she was a "mellow" person who didn't say much but that she was invaluable to him. She had one day intervened during an attempted rape of his wife.
“Nobody else came to my wife’s assistance but her,” Micra told the SF Gate. “I have nothing but good things to say about her.”
But a lot has been said about the woman, just the lastest citizen of San Franscisco to lose their life during an officer-involved shooting.
In a matter of hours, the shooting quickly sent off temblors around a city known for its staunch activism. The police chief took to the TV cameras, telling San Franciscans that things were being done the right way. Chief Greg Suhr told reporters that Williams was spotted in a car reported stolen and she attempted to evade police. She crashed the car about 100 feet away. When an officer ran upon her vehicle and opened the car door, Williams -- who was in the middle of putting the car between reverse and drive -- was struck by a single bullet, which killed her.
The mayor took the police chief down.
“I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Mayor Ed Lee announced at a news conference a day later, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
“But following this morning’s officer-involved shooting and my meeting with Chief Suhr this afternoon, today I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward," Lee was quoted as saying.
“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough. Not for me, not for Greg. That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation. And in the best interest of the City he loves so much, he tendered his resignation earlier today.”
The people took to the streets.
Protests were organized at City Hall, where the mayor was speaking, within hours of the shooting. Another one was planned outside city council quarters. Following the death of Mario Woods and other police shootings, the people had had enough.
"[Jessica Williams] was entitled to due process and, above all, she was entitled to her life,” San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi in statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
was born Jessica Nelson and was raised by an aunt and her father in Sacramento, but family members say she had cut off ties with much of that family in recent years while she began living in San Francisco, mostly on the street. Her cousin Porsche McCullough Bowens tells the Chronicle, "She was not a saint, but she never tried to hurt anyone."
Williams came from a loving family but became estranged after some time, according to reports. She eventually began living on the street, with her five kids being cared for by her sister. On the streets, she was befriended and taken in by the woman would became her "street mother," Jennifer Williams.
Jessica Nelson would soon take her last name as a sign of respect and honor. Jennifer Williams told 48 Hills that Jessica and her fiancé "were camped at a nearby industrial, they had to keep moving as the police came, but they were always into people always helping. No matter what they did, even if it was illegal they were good people. There was always something very peaceful about Jessica."
According to KTVU, police on Friday identified the officer who shot Williams as 45-year-old Sgt. Justin Erb.
Speaking to The Marshall Project, San Francisco Sgt. Officer Joshua Kumli said, "It’s really difficult to critique an officer-involved shooting. The media and the public often have no understanding of what the officers were faced with, what the law is, or what the standard in decision-making is. But on the other hand, as soon as people are forced with change, usually they become a pincushion with barbs pointing out in all directions. You can’t change yourself except when you realize you have a problem. And police departments are no different. When someone points a finger at a police agency, everyone on the force points fingers away from themselves. No one says, this is what I can do to help."
Officers' concerns do not placate Don Gordon, 45, who called Williams his "street neice." Speaking to the San Francisco Gate, Gordon questioned why Williams had to die.
“It makes no sense,” Gordon continued. “Why didn’t they shoot the car to stop it from moving? And if she was trying to get away, just let her get away.”