Police Officer’s Identification of Defendant Under Question


By Hannah Grayson

A gang-related murder trial reconvened in Department 16 on Monday morning after the Thanksgiving break, presided over by Judge Eric R. Fleming. The entire day was dedicated to questioning the officer that identified one of the defendants, leading to his arrest.

The trial is of two different defendants regarding the gang-related murder of a man in the Mission District in the early morning of March 17 in 2017. The first defendant is on trial for the murder, while the other defendant is on trial for assisting.

The only witness of the day was San Francisco Police Department Officer Michael Mayo. He works in the Mission District and has been a part of the Mission housing team in the SFPD in which he covers the projects and gang suppression. His role in this team has given him a knowledge of those involved in gangs through contact with the members.

Due to his role in this team, the homicide detectives from this case had contacted Officer Mayo a few days after the incident for information, as they believed the murder was related to gang activity.

Officer Mayo had had prior contact with both of the defendants prior to the murder and he was aware of them and their gang relations. These contacts included an incident on January 14, 2017, when he had contact with them together when they were loitering in a parking lot.

When working on this homicide case, the detectives showed Officer Mayo all of the surveillance footage taken from the scene of the crime and the surrounding area. In it, he identified the suspect as the first defendant.

The People, Adam Maldonado, showed him bits of the footage and he once again identified the man in the video as the defendant. He was very certain of this identification despite the fact that the suspect’s face never appears in the footage. He claimed that he identified him based on his “distinctive” hair, his stature, facial hair, and the way that he walked, based on prior contact.

Officer Mayo had also made contact with the first defendant two days after the murder, at which time he was already a suspect. After making contact, he continued to watch the defendant go into Dolores Park and meet with the other defendant. This apparently proved the continued connection between the two defendants.

In the cross-examination by George Borges, the attorney for the second defendant, he quickly confirmed with Officer Mayo that his client was never arrested prior to this case.

In the cross-examination by the attorney for the first defendant, Steve Olmo, he showed the witness stills of the surveillance footage to have him continue identifying the suspect. In most of the pictures, he identified the person as the defendant. For one picture, however, he said he was not sure as the picture was grainy. Olmo pointed out that this was a picture from one of the videos shown just earlier that day in which he identified the defendant.

Officer Mayo also guessed the height of the defendant to be about 5’4” to 5’6” which was contradictory from the statements of witnesses approximating the suspect’s height to be from 5’7” to 5’9”.

The day ended with questions over a picture from social media and whether or not to show it to the jury. Out of the presence of the jury, Officer Mayo testified about a picture taken from an Instagram story in which it shows the defendant smoking and holding a gun. He believed this gun to be similar to the one used in this murder as he saw in photos of the crime scene.

Officer Mayo testified that he often looks at social media for posts about gang activity in his area. He had found this picture on social media just before becoming a part of the case. Olmo argued that picture had caused Officer Mayo to be too focused on the defendant when identifying the suspect and, therefore, biased toward identifying him.

As for deciding what information to give to the jury, Judge Fleming decided to dismiss the jury for the day for time to figure it out. The trial will resume in the same department on Tuesday at 9:30 in the morning.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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