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The embattled head of the San Francisco Police Department resigned just hours after a fatal police encounter that sparked renewed outrage over conduct by the city's law enforcement.
Police Chief Greg Suhr stepped down at the request of the city's Mayor Ed Lee on Thursday evening. Earlier that day, Suhr had announced the latest fatal shooting by police in the city, this time of a 27-year-old black woman who had allegedly driven away from police and crashed a stolen car.
"I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform," Lee told reporters at a press conference in City Hall. "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."
Suhr has been the subject of increasing criticism and protests over his handling of police-perpetrated fatalities and a scandal involving a series of racist text messages exchanged between officers in the department. Some of the texts referred to black people as "animals," and used the "N" word, among other slurs.
San Francisco Police spokeswoman Officer Grace Gatpandan said she could not comment on Suhr's resignation and said the mayor's statement was all the office could provide.
Lee named Toney Chaplin, a deputy chief of police and the head of the department's Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau, as acting police chief. Chaplin is African-American.
Hours earlier, Suhr told reporters that around 9:45 a.m. two officers approached a 27-year-old woman as she sat in a car that had been reported as stolen. Suhr said he did not know whether the woman was armed.
The woman tried to drive off, crashing into another vehicle fewer than 100 feet away. She was shot by one of the officers, a sergeant, after refusing to comply with their orders, Suhr said. She later died at an area hospital.
Suhr said the officers had not been interviewed. The two officers and the woman have not been identified.
Suhr is the latest police chief to step down or have been fired over systemic racial bias in police departments and high profile deaths of black people in police custody nationwide. Anthony Batts, Baltimore's former police chief, was axed in July, 2015, over his handling of the death Freddie Gray in the back of a police van and the protests and riots that followed. Former Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy was also fired in December amid protests over the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
The public firings have followed nationwide demonstrations and a movement protesting police brutality. The ongoing protests have prompted the Department of Justice to review conduct of police officers in various departments around the country.
Thursday's shooting occurred in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood, the same area where in December police fatally shot a black man who was a suspect in a stabbing. Police said then that 26-year-old Mario Woods, whose family has sued the city, was holding a knife and refused to drop it.
Video of that shooting filmed by a bystander, which went viral after being published online, showed Woods being gunned down in a hail of bullets by officers.
Following that shooting and amid escalating protests, the city and the US Department of Justice launched a collaborative review of the San Francisco police department in February, which critics said fell short of a civil rights investigation.