Tuesday Midday News Roundup
Sheriff’s Deputies and Police Searching For Escaped Inmate
An inmate from the county jail escaped custody late Monday and is still at large, according to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
At about 8:45 p.m. Monday a deputy was escorting inmate Alexander Santiago-Gonzales to the basement of the Hall of Justice to take out the trash, sheriff’s officials said. On the way to the basement garbage dumpster, the inmate fled on Harriet Alley in the direction of Harrison Street, sheriff’s officials said.
The deputy chased the inmate but was not able to apprehend him, according to the sheriff’s department. Other deputies and officers from the San Francisco Police Department have responded to aid in the search, according to the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff’s officials said Santiago-Gonzales was booked into jail in July of 2014 on a U.S. Marshal hold for narcotics trafficking, possession of a firearm and a felon in possession of firearms in narcotics trafficking.
The sheriff’s department has notified U.S. Marshals and law enforcement agencies in surrounding areas and has begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts Santiago-Gonzales is being asked to call (415) 734-3111 or 911.
Elton John, Mumford & Sons, Black Keys Among Outside Lands Headliners
Elton John, Mumford & Sons and the Black Keys are among the headliners performing at this year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, festival organizers announced today.
The festival, which will take place from Aug. 7-9, also includes Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar and Wilco. The full lineup can be found here.
The popular three-day festival also features comedy, art, food, beer and wine options. Last year’s headliners included Kanye West, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Killers and Tiesto.
More information about the festival can be found here.
Construction Crew Ruptures Gas Line in Outer Sunset
A construction crew ruptured a gas line in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood this afternoon, according to the fire department.
The crew hit the line in the 3600 block of Taraval Street at 2:32 p.m.
PG&E crews arrived to make repairs just before 3 p.m., fire officials said.
Judge Throws Out Charges in Ex-Firefighter’s DUI Case, Civil Case Still Pending
A San Francisco Superior Court judge has thrown out criminal charges against a former San Francisco firefighter who struck a motorcyclist while driving a fire truck allegedly under the influence of alcohol in 2013.
Judge Kay Tsenin threw out criminal charges against former firefighter Michael Quinn on Friday on grounds that police did not have probable cause to arrest him. A civil lawsuit against Quinn and the city are still pending.
Jack Frazier, the motorcyclist who was struck by the fire truck that Quinn was driving around 11:30 p.m. on June 29, 2013, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, is represented by attorney Chuck Koro.
Koro, who specializes in cases of people who have been in
motorcycle accidents, said the collection of evidence in the case was
“bungled” in Quinn’s favor, but that this isn’t just about Quinn.
He said it’s important that any firefighter who responds to work while under the influence of alcohol and gets into a collision is held accountable for their actions.
Koro said there is nothing in place to prevent the evidence from being “bungled” again if a similar incident were to occur.
He said that when he learned the judge had thrown out the case Friday, he “was very disappointed and angry.”
According to Koro, this is not an isolated incident and the San Francisco Fire Department has a history of alcohol-related problems.
Koro said the city needs to do more to make sure none of their firefighters are responding to work while under the influence.
A 2004 civil grand jury investigation determined that there was indeed an alcohol problem at the city’s fire stations.
Over a decade since the grand jury findings were released, Koro said Monday, “This is apparently a pervasive problem that hasn’t been addressed.”
The 2004 grand jury investigation states, “Many SFFD personnel interviewed have witnessed on-duty drinking and other types of substance abuse” and that during the investigation, “on-duty consumption of alcohol and other drug abuse has been and continues to be tolerated in some stations. Some ranking officers in these stations are part of the problem.”
According to the grand jury’s findings, when officers were sent to stations to conduct investigations following up on alcohol-related tips, they were known to look the other way while firefighters disposed of alcohol.
The grand jury’s finding state, “Misplaced loyalty can sometimes supersede proper reporting of on-duty alcohol consumption.”
Koro said in the case of Quinn, he was allegedly caught on video surveillance at the Chieftain Irish Pub downing pitchers of water with colleagues following the crash, allegedly in an effort to sober up.
“It’s just outrageous,” Koro said.
San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said a department breathalyzer was used at the scene following the crash, but that those results were only intended for internal use.
The breathalyzers are “not calibrated to the same exact pinpoint as police” breathalyzers, making the results non-admissible as evidence in a criminal trial, Talmadge said.
She said Quinn resigned following the crash.
Talmadge said that while the fire department doesn’t have any comment on the judge’s recent decision to throw out the case, she said the department has had an outside agency doing random drug and alcohol testing since San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White took up her post in 2004.
Talmadge said that in order for Quinn’s blood-alcohol content level to be permissible as evidence in court, police would have had to administer their own field sobriety test following the crash.
However, Quinn allegedly left the scene of the collision, returning later, after consuming water and after significant time had elapsed, according to Koro.
Koro said he also doesn’t understand why Quinn wasn’t initially charged with felony hit-and-run, since he was allegedly not at the scene when police arrived.
By leaving the scene, Quinn postponed police officers’ ability to draw his blood to be tested for alcohol content, which led to “bungled” evidence, Koro said.
The civil lawsuit claims that the city and Quinn exhibited “despicable conduct and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others” and says they should be held financially responsible for the injuries that Frazier suffered and the damages his motorcycle sustained.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is considering appealing the judge’s decision in the criminal case.
“We completely disagree with the judge’s ruling and are exploring all appellate options,” district attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said today.
Police Chief Hosts Tense Town Hall Meeting On Fatal Police Shooting of Erratic Female Driver
Members of the public called for the resignation of San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr this evening during a town hall meeting he hosted to discuss an officer-involved shooting, which ended with the death of a 24-year-old woman who was driving erratically in a stolen car last Tuesday.
At the town hall meeting Suhr discussed the events that allegedly led up to plainclothes police officers fatally shooting San Francisco resident Alice Brown after she allegedly went on a driving rampage at the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Pine Street last Tuesday night while allegedly trying to escape pursuing officers.
Members of the community who attended the meeting held banners commemorating the lives of those who have died in officer-involved shootings.
A number of people said Suhr can’t handle the job and should retire or resign.
Suhr asked the public to keep the conversation and all questions on the subject of last Tuesday’s fatal shooting.
He said the two plainclothes officers who shot and killed Brown were Sgt. Thomas McGuire and Officer Michael Tursi.
Suhr said the two officers responded in an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria at 7:07 p.m. last Tuesday to the intersection to investigate a possible stolen vehicle.
Members of the public urged the police chief to explain why the San Francisco Police Department decided to send two officers in civilian clothing without a marked patrol car to the scene to investigate.
Suhr and members of the Police Department’s media relations unit said that it is not against police policy to send plainclothes officers out to investigate such crimes.
Attendees at the town hall meeting, some of whom had lost loved ones in other officer-involved shootings, argued that sending officers without uniforms and without marked patrol cars causes confusion and can lead to an escalated situation.
According to Suhr, officers located the suspect vehicle, a blue four-door Volkswagen sedan, at a Chevron gas station.
Suhr said the car was stolen from the car rental agency Zipcar and that police later discovered the car’s original license plates were inside the car and another set of license plates were mounted on the car’s exterior.
The officers approached the vehicle on foot and identified themselves to the driver, according to Suhr.
Brown put the car in gear and drove toward the officers, then tried to drive away from the gas station, hit a building and turned onto Pine Street, where she turned around and started driving the wrong way down the street, police said.
Officers allegedly chased after the car on foot but Brown drove onto a sidewalk, then drove toward the officers for a second time and hit another building and several parked vehicles, police said.
Brown again entered the roadway going the wrong way, hit more vehicles and forced a motorcyclist to abandon his vehicle on the roadway to avoid being hit, police said.
Police said Brown drove back onto the sidewalk and that the officers then fired at least two shots at the car from their department-issued firearms.
The car ended up on the sidewalk of Pine Street about 50 feet west of Van Ness Avenue.
The officers gave aid to Brown, but she died at the scene, police said.
Police said the officers fired at the woman because she was endangering the lives of the officers and nearby pedestrians.
Officials have not yet said whether drugs or alcohol were factors in the incident.
Brown also had two felony warrants for her arrest at the time of her death, Suhr said.
At least two eyewitnesses at the scene during the officer-involved shooting were at the meeting today and commented on police actions during the incident.
Eyewitness Tammi Abney, told Suhr, “What you said was not true.”
She said she had just bought gas at the Chevron station when the incident began. She said she heard one shot then after a short gap, four more shots.
Abney asked police why they had to pursue Brown and why they couldn’t have let her go. She said officers escalated the situation.
Another eyewitness, Michele Herzberg-Moran, who said she was in one of the cars that Brown struck at the intersection, said as far as she can tell everything the chief said this evening appears accurate and truthful.
However, Herzberg-Moran said she had a feeling that the men in civilian clothes were officers, but had no way to know for sure.
“I never saw the badges,” Herzberg-Moran said.
She said that Brown was trying to get through gridlocked traffic by ramming cars.
“The car was being used as a weapon and it was scary,” she said.
Brown’s family also attended the community meeting and while they did not make comments, DeWitt Lacy, an attorney at the law offices of John L. Burris, said his office is conducting an investigation into the police officers’ use of force and if necessary, will file a lawsuit against the officers and the city.
“We want answers just like many folks,” Lacy said following the meeting.
Angela Naggie, the mother of Oshaine Evans, who was killed by undercover police officers near AT&T Park following a San Francisco Giants game last year, said Brown’s case is very similar to her son’s case.
She said officers in civilian clothing approached her son while he was in a car before fatally shooting him.
Suhr said the officer-involved shooting remains under investigation by the Police Department’s homicide detail and its internal affairs division, as well as the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Citizen Complaints.
Some members of the public at the meeting expressed their concern that because the investigations are led by city government employees, they cannot be truly independent.