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Justice Dept. to investigate San Francisco P.D. after video emerges of shooting death

By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 1, 2016 at 7:57 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced it will investigate the San Francisco Police Department due to a controversial officer-involved shooting that killed a man in December.

Justice officials said the review will be "comprehensive" and focus on the department's actions leading up to the death of Mario Woods on Dec. 2.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services will conduct the investigation, officials said.

Woods, 26, died after he was shot multiple times by police. Authorities contend that Woods fit the description of a suspect involved in a stabbing earlier that day and presented a threat to the officers' safety by refusing to drop his knife.

Police claim the officers first tried non-lethal force, firing bean bags and tear gas at Woods, but say those tactics were unsuccessful.

New video footage, though, has thrown the official police account into question and drawn nationwide criticism. Woods is seen in the video, the critics say, with his arms at his sides and appears to have trouble walking -- a scenario they say doesn't warrant the use of deadly force.

"This can be the first step in healing the division between the minority communities and the Police Department," Woods family attorney John Burris said. "Of course, the investigation should be without limitations and should allow for a wide open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the policies, procedures and training, and let the chips fall where they may."

The investigation will seek to evaluate the San Francisco Police Department's policies, practices and how it holds officers accountable, The Washington Post reported Monday.

"Our police department will have at least as much training in de-escalation as we do in use of force," San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, who said he found the video upsetting, said in a statement.

Lee and the SFPD have already pledged an investigation into the incident, but relatives of Woods, a black man, had sought to involve federal investigators. They have also filed a civil rights lawsuit against San Francisco.

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