Beyond the Walls is a Clarion Alley Mural Project blog series that uncovers the stories and artists behind the murals of Clarion Alley. Our first post sheds light on the tragic story of Luís D. Góngora Pat and the mural dedicated to his memory.
By: Jasen Lo
Photos: Erin Doolittle & Jasen Lo
Justice for Luís D. Góngora Pat
Artists: Elaine Chu & Marina Perez-Wong (Twin Walls Mural Company)
SAN FRANCISCO (C.A.M.P) – In the Mission District, the Virgin of Guadalupe casts a vengeful eye from Clarion Alley across Valencia Street. The building that she is casting her wrath towards is the Mission Police Station whose officers murdered Luís Demetrio Góngora Pat, a 45-year-old man from the Mayan village of Teabo, in the Mexican province of Yucatán.
Luís Demetrio Góngora Pat was a resident at an encampment on 18th and Shotwell streets. To those in the neighborhood, Luís was known as the “homeless guy with the soccer ball”. But Luís had a home, one that was built with the remittances he sent back to Teabo, even after being evicted from his apartment and forced to reside on the streets. Luís never had the chance to live in the house he worked so hard to construct – a home that Góngora’s wife Fidelia and their three children will live in without their husband and father.
On 7 April 2016, Luís Góngora was shot by two police officers in an unjustified act of police brutality. Within 30 seconds of exiting their patrol vehicles, San Francisco Police Department’s officers unloaded four beanbag rounds and seven live rounds at Luís. The SFPD’s officers’ statement alleges that Luís lunged at them with a knife.
However, eight eyewitness statements, security video footage, images of Luís’ body presented to the press from the independent autopsy and the Medical Examiner’s Report contradict the officers’ account. According to forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts, Luís never threatened the officers. He did not hold a knife. He was facing away from the officers when they shot him with beanbag rounds. He was killed by a bullet to the head following a steep downwards trajectory as the officers continued to shoot him after Luís had fallen. (Learn more about the facts here: justice4Luis.org/Luiss-story/)
“Luís Góngora Pat did not have to die. SFPD officers unlawfully and unjustifiably attacked an innocent man, who was sitting on the ground, minding his own business,” writes Góngora family advocate Adriana Camarena on justice4Luís.org..
Luís Góngora is but one in a long list of names which include Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, and Mario Woods – all victims of police violence that disproportionately affects marginalized populations. The Guardian reports that homeless people are 6.5 times more likely to be shot by the police. The Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services found that SFPD disproportionately targets people of color – 9 out of 11 ‘use of deadly force’ incidents from 2013 to 2016 involved people of color.
Two years after Luís’ shooting, District Attorney George Gascón still hasn’t decided to press charges against the officers who murdered Luís. In a meeting on February 28, 2018, D.A. Gascón told Luís’ family that he would make a charging decision between April 11 and 25.
United in collective disgust at D.A. Gascón’s inaction, a coalition of diverse entities have banded together to demand justice against Luís’ killers and support Luís’ family in Teabo. Students from Santa Clara Law School, families of other police shooting victims, activists and organizers who include Maria Gutierrez of the Frisco Five and Adriana Camarena have been keeping a daily countdown outside the Hall of Justice to hold Gascón accountable.
Luís’ family, their legal representatives and allies are not optimistic – Gascón has pressed no criminal charges against any SFPD officer involved in the 51 officer-involved shootings between 2011 and 2017.(The People’s Police Observatory, 2018). The prospect of justice seems bleak.
In the face of such blatant injustice, artists are also helping to lead the call for justice for Luis. Muralists Elaine Chu and Marina Perez Wong of Twin Walls Mural Company have recently completed a mural dedicated to Luis Góngora Pat as part of Clarion Alley Mural Project. The process for the mural began almost two years ago, not long after Luis’ death. CAMP began working with Luis’ family members and Adriana Camarena. Artist Patrick Piazza created an initial draft design over the next year and in 2017 Marina and Elaine were asked by CAMP to take Piazza’s rough drawing and transform it into the completed mural, with the support and direction of Luis’ family.
Muralists Elaine Chu and Marina Perez-Wong presented the mural to Luís’ family and their supporters on 7 April 2018, the two-year anniversary of Luís’ death. As activist Adriana Camarena and Father Luís Arriaga installed a small altar at the mural’s base, Elaine and Marina explained the various artistic choices they made and the references to Luís’ life and his heritage to an emotional Góngora family:
“I have been out here for two years now. Asking for justice for my brother. Today is a special day. It’s a hard day. But I have hope. I have hope that I will see justice for my brother,” – declared Luís’ brother, Jose Góngora.
On the same day, a fundraiser was organized to raise funds for Luís’ widow and children as part of the pop-up Mayan War Room in the Mission Cultural Centre for Latino Arts. Although the established systems of justice have failed the embattled Góngoras to date, art and organized resistance have been the systems of support for the Góngora family, who have received neither justice nor closure due to D.A. Gascón’s inaction, leaving a devastated family grieving for two whole years.
Frisco 5’s Maria Gutierrez, who hunger struck two weeks after Luís’ killing in response to the numerous victims of police-involved shootings, said: “We have to mobilize. By the hundreds. We are not going to put up with another one of his (D.A. Gascón’s) decisions which say that the police were innocent, that they were defending their lives and that they make the right decision when they murder our people.”
Maria’s words embody the sentiment of many in the Mission, Mayan, muralist and Góngora communities – Luís’ family demands justice against his assassins.