Man killed at San Francisco airport told officers to shoot him

A 37-year-old unarmed man fatally shot by police this month at San Francisco International Airport told officers to shoot him and said he had a second handgun in his jacket, officials said Monday at a town hall where they released more details and body-camera footage.

The California attorney general’s office is investigating the Jan. 20 shooting because the victim was unarmed. The San Francisco Police Department has been criticized for failing to disclose that the victim, Nelson Szeto, was carrying two airsoft replicas, which are not firearms. A person carrying airsoft replicas would be considered unarmed under state law, San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe told The Times this month.

It appears that police thought Szeto was armed, although some callers into Monday’s town hall said it was clear he was in mental crisis. During the standoff, Szeto told officers to shoot him “center mass” and thanked them for their service, said San Francisco Police Cmdr. Paul Yep.

Yep said officers were called shortly before 7:30 a.m. after calls of a suspicious man in the international section of the airport, without luggage and “holding his midsection area, as if trying to hide something.”

Yep said that as officers approached, Szeto pulled out from his jacket what they described as a handgun. Later, Szeto said he had “another gun and this one’s loaded,” according to Yep.

In body-camera footage, a hostage negotiator can be heard telling Szeto to put down the guns and saying that police only want to help. But the negotiator and officers can also be heard shouting at Szeto to back up or else they would shoot, and they fired “less-lethal projectiles,” Yep said.

Szeto dropped one gun, Yep said, but at least one officer fired when it looked like Szeto was raising the remaining gun. Szeto fell backwards, but “some or all” of the four officers involved fired again, killing him, when it looked like he was reaching again for the gun.

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

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