Thursday San Francisco News Roundup
Police ID 2 Men Arrested on Suspicion of Shooting, Robbing Tourist
Two San Francisco men have been identified as the suspects arrested for allegedly shooting a tourist while robbing him of his camera near the city’s famous crooked section of Lombard Street and then attempting to flee from police via the Bay Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
Suspects Eric Anthony Espanol, 25, and Brian Fox, 24, were arrested near the Oakland-Emeryville border, according to San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza.
The shooting was reported at 12:09 p.m. Tuesday near the corner of Lombard and Jones streets in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, police said.
The tourist was walking west on Lombard Street toward the crooked section when a suspect approached him and took his camera. The suspect ran east on Lombard and the tourist ran after him, police said.
A second suspect arrived in a dark car and one of the two men shot the tourist in the shoulder.
The wound was not thought to be life-threatening and the victim is expected to recover, according to Police Chief Greg Suhr.
After the shooting both suspects sped away in the car, according to police.
As police officers were arriving, they saw the suspect vehicle fleeing toward the Bay Bridge. San Francisco police officers pursued them to the bridge with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol, police said.
The suspects exited the freeway and stopped the car in the 1000 block of 60th Street near the Oakland-Emeryville border, police said.
The two men got out of the car and ran. Espanol was quickly arrested on 60th Street near San Pablo Avenue but Fox fled into the neighborhood, according to police.
The surrounding streets were shut down while police from multiple agencies searched the area for about three hours.
Oakland police said shortly after 3 p.m. that the second suspect was arrested.
Both men were booked into jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, conspiracy, and resisting an officer, Esparza said.
Espanol was also arrested for warrants out of Mendocino County related to driving on a suspended license and a traffic violation.
Fox was also arrested for felony reckless evading and carrying a loaded firearm.
Suhr said Wednesday that his message to anyone who commits similar crimes is that they can expect to be brought to justice by the San Francisco Police Department.
“We’re gonna find you and there is going to be retribution,” Suhr said.
Former Bay Area Reporter Who Killed Virginia News Crew Dies by Apparent Suicide
A man who started his TV journalism career in the Bay Area allegedly shot and killed two former colleagues during a live broadcast in Virginia Wednesday morning and later killed himself while fleeing police.
Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. “Bill” Overton Jr. identified the suspected shooter as reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by the on-air name Bryce Williams.
Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX confirmed Flanagan had worked there from 1993-1995. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio/TV broadcasting.
Flanagan apparently shot himself after a brief car chase later Wednesday morning and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to Virginia State Police. He died at about 1:30 p.m., Overton said.
He was fired from his job at WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, about two years ago. Wednesday morning, he approached reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County, Virginia.
Flanagan allegedly opened fire as the pair interviewed Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce employee Vicki Gardner at about 6:45 a.m. local time, according to WDBJ. All three were shot, Parker and Ward died from their wounds and Gardner was taken to a hospital, where she had surgery and is recovering.
Flanagan fled the scene before police arrived but was quickly identified as a suspect, Overton said. He drove his 2009 Ford Mustang to a nearby airport and left in a rented Chevrolet Sonic.
A Virginia State Police trooper spotted the Sonic on Interstate Highway 81 and followed Flanagan to Interstate Highway 66 while waiting for backup, according to state police. When they tried to pull him over, Flanagan sped away.
After a short pursuit, Flanagan crashed into the highway’s median. Once troopers caught up with him they found him suffering from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital but died a short time later.
WDBJ7 general manager and president Jeffrey Marks said during a live broadcast Wednesday that Flanagan left the station about two years ago but remained in the area and apparently tracked down the news crew while watching the live broadcast.
Flanagan was employed as a reporter there. He had TV news experience but had been out of the business for a while. Marks said other employees found him angry and difficult to work with.
“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” Marks said. “He did not take that well, we had to have police escort him from the building.”
Flanagan filed a complaint against the station alleging incidents of racism during his employment there, but Marks said those reports could not be corroborated and he believes they were “fabricated.”
Overton said Wednesday that Flanagan sent a lengthy document about Wednesday morning’s shooting to a news station in New York. The station turned the document over to investigators, but Overton did not disclose any of its contents Wednesday.
“It’s obvious this gentleman was disturbed in some way,” Overton said. “Things were spiraling out of control” for him.
The sheriff said he had met the two victims personally during an interview with the pair weeks ago. He said he was watching the broadcast as the shooting happened Wednesday morning.
“I’m not even sure that the individuals who were shot and killed even realized he was there,” Overton said.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said Wednesday that his staff has been in “constant contact” with local news stations after Wednesday morning’s events in Virginia.
“The people in Virginia are in our thoughts and prayers,” Suhr said.
Expert Witnesses Say Bullet Likely Ricocheted Off Pier 14 Before Fatally Striking Woman Last Month
The single bullet that struck and killed a 32-year-old woman in broad daylight on San Francisco’s waterfront last month appears to have ricocheted off a cement pier prior to hitting the victim, according to expert testimony provided Wednesday during the second day of the murder suspect’s preliminary hearing.
The suspect, identified as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who goes by numerous names, including Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, attended the second day of his preliminary hearing Wednesday, this time free of the shackles that bound him in court the day before.
With the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, Lopez-Sanchez listened to the second day of testimony provided by members of the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco medical examiner’s office.
Wednesday, Lopez-Sanchez often yawned, closed his eyes for extended periods of time, rubbed his face, and glanced around the courtroom.
Among the key points made by a firearm expert and a crime scene investigator on the stand Wednesday, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan P. Conroy, was the assertion that a single bullet was fired from a semiautomatic pistol. The bullet then ricocheted off the cement pier before continuing in an upward path, ultimately striking the victim, San Francisco resident Kathryn “Kate” Steinle as she walked on the pier with her father and a family friend at about 6:30 p.m. on July 1.
San Francisco police criminalist and ballistics expert Gerald Andrew Smith took the stand Wednesday and held up for the judge to see in court the black Sig Sauer P239 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, that was recovered from the San Francisco Bay near Pier 14 the day after the homicide.
Smith processed the loaded pistol, which later was discovered stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger during an auto burglary, and determined that one of the bullets had been fired.
He said that upon examining the one spent bullet retrieved from Steinle’s body during the autopsy, it is his opinion that the signatures of the bullet matched the test bullet he fired from the pistol.
Smith noted that the bullet is damaged significantly on one side, leading him to believe that it likely ricocheted after being fired, but before striking Steinle.
“There was no mechanical malfunction,” Smith said, explaining that this firearm is commonly used by law enforcement officials because of its reliability.
San Francisco police Inspector John Evans, who was tasked with investigating the crime scene, said that on July 5, investigators located a strike mark on the cement pier.
He said that based on the approximate place on the pier where witnesses saw the suspect and where the victim was standing when she was struck, it appears the projectile struck a hard surface prior to striking the victim.
Tests run four days after the shooting, of the gouged cement where the bullet is believed to have ricocheted, turned up negative for traces of lead and copper that might have been left by a bullet.
San Francisco’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Michael Hunter, said the autopsy showed Steinle suffered a fatal gunshot wound to her back and that the bullet struck her aorta and lodged in her abdomen.
Hunter said the bullet that struck Steinle was traveling in a slightly upward direction.
“It is an atypical entrance wound, which to me has a lot of significance,” Hunter said on the stand. “This is anything but a classic entrance wound.”
He said that due to the “rectangular” shape of the entry wound, before the bullet entered the victim’s body, it either ricocheted off a hard surface, traveled through something, or there was a defect with the barrel of the gun.
He said, in his expert opinion, that it was consistent with a ricocheted bullet.
A photograph of the bullet, which normally would be cylindrical, shows that the one taken from Steinle’s body is crushed and covered in striations.
A plainclothes police officer who assisted in the arrest of Lopez-Sanchez near the scene following the shooting, also took the stand Wednesday, and recounted an incident in which he stopped another person on the street prior to stopping Lopez-Sanchez.
San Francisco police Officer Joshua Fry said that before detaining Lopez-Sanchez at the intersection of Townsend Street and The Embarcadero, he and his partner had stopped someone briefly at Market Street and The Embarcadero.
The officers had not yet seen a photo of the suspect and were going off of vague suspect descriptions coming in over their radio.
The man they stopped didn’t seem to be a “homeless-type person” as the suspect description indicated, and the man was let go without further questioning, Fry said.
At Tuesday’s hearing, testimony from three police investigators as well as photographic evidence captured by tourists appear to place the suspect at the crime scene.
Chief attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Matt Gonzalez, who is representing Lopez-Sanchez, said Wednesday he is hopeful that the judge will see Lopez-Sanchez’ actions as accidental.
Francisco Ugarte, an immigration specialist with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, also urged the public not to “pre-judge” the suspect “because of his immigration status.”
Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, said that when someone shoots a gun in a crowded public place and kills someone it remains a murder, regardless of the person’s intention.
The preliminary hearing will continue Thursday at 10 a.m., at which point the defense it expected to call additional witnesses to the stand.
Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks Facing Criminal Charges for December Sexual Assault
Former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald and current linebacker Ahmad Brooks are facing criminal charges for the sexual assault of a woman at McDonald’s San Jose home late last year, prosecutors said Wednesday.
McDonald, 30, was indicted by a Santa Clara County Grand Jury for raping the intoxicated woman and faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. Brooks, 31, has been charged with misdemeanor sexual battery for the Dec. 15 incident and faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
While McDonald was already cut from the team shortly after the sexual assault allegations surfaced, Brooks remained with the 49ers Wednesday afternoon despite his name surfacing earlier this year a civil case over the assault.
“The organization is aware that a misdemeanor charge has been filed against Ahmad Brooks stemming from a December 2014 matter,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We take any charge against a member of this organization seriously and are in communication with the NFL. Ahmad is returning home to California and will not participate in Saturday’s game.”
The 49ers are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos in a preseason game Saturday.
McDonald’s run-ins with the law have effectively ended his football career. He weathered a domestic violence arrest last August involving his pregnant then-fiancée when prosecutors declined to file charges due to a lack of evidence, but was cut in December when the sexual assault allegations surfaced with the 49ers citing a pattern of poor decision-making.
He got a second chance when he signed a 1-year deal with the Chicago Bears, but was cut in May when he was arrested again on suspicion of domestic violence. He was arrested again days later for violating a restraining order stemming from that arrest.
This week’s indictment also includes charges for violating the restraining order, but the grand jury declined to indict McDonald for the previous domestic violence arrest. Because of that, prosecutors plan to drop those charges.
The civil complaint filed by the alleged sexual assault victim earlier this year elaborated on the details of the incident that led to McDonald’s indictment.
The woman and McDonald met while drinking at the Willow Den bar in San Jose on Dec. 13, joining him and several friends. Eventually they went back to McDonald’s home in the Silver Creek Valley Country Club in East San Jose where they continued drinking.
According to the woman’s complaint, she was out by McDonald’s pool, slipped on a wet, slippery and negligently maintained deck and was knocked unconscious when she hit the ground.
The woman said she was later told that McDonald thought she was dead and said he didn’t want a dead woman found at his house.
While she was unconscious, she said Brooks groped her sexually and that was corroborated by surveillance footage at McDonald’s house. After that, McDonald carried her to his bedroom where they had sex without her consent while she was semi-conscious, according to the complaint.
McDonald tried to sue the woman for defamation, and while he acknowledged they had sex, he said it was consensual and she was alert and talking during the encounter.
McDonald is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 25. Brooks will appear at a later date, according to prosecutors.
Today’s Weather Forecast
Today will be cloudy in the morning with patchy fog and then will become sunny. Highs will be in the upper 60s to lower 80s and west winds will reach 5 to 15 miles per hour.
Tonight will be partly cloudy in the evening and then will become mostly cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows will be in the upper 50s and west winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.
Friday will be cloudy in the morning and then will become partly cloudy with patchy fog. Highs will be in the upper 60s to the upper 70s and southwest winds will reach 5 to 10 miles per hour.