Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Man arrested in Castro arson


Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man is in jail for allegedly starting a fire in San Francisco’s Castro district Monday.

At 3:30 a.m. October 26, an anonymous caller reported that a man was “lighting a garbage can on fire” in the 500 block of Castro Street, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said in a summary.

Police arrived and arrested Raja Nair, 39, who was booked into custody on suspicion of arson of property and possession of an incendiary device.

He’s in custody on $400,000 bail, according to the sheriff’s department’s website, which doesn’t list an arraignment date. Police haven’t provided a booking photo.

A. Cabebe, a watch commander at the jail, said that Nair couldn’t be interviewed because he was in psychiatric housing and wasn’t able to give informed consent.

Court records indicate Nair has had other encounters with police in recent years.

In January, a man by the name of Raja Nair filed a $6.1 million personal injury lawsuit against the police department’s Southern station. (It couldn’t immediately be verified whether the plaintiff is the same man being charged in the arson.)

In his complaint, Nair said that in May 2014, he was in custody at the station, which was then at 850 Bryant Street, when police “negligence caused serious injuries” to him.

“The defendant’s medical technicians physically restrained plaintiff and hypodermically injected, into plaintiff’s gluteal area, right side, chemicals formulated for mental discomforts or other unknown purposes, against plaintiff’s verbal refusal, resulting in puncture of the sciatic nerve and serious injury to plaintiff,” the court documents say.

Nair says he was left with a “lack of sensation” in his right foot, lost wages, “increased risk of chronic nerve pain,” and “diminished enjoyment of life,” among other issues. He lost the lawsuit in September.

The documents list Nair’s address as 1171 Mission Street, which is the site of the city’s Medical Respite and Sobering Center. Officials weren’t immediately able to discuss Nair. According to its website, the center “provides specialized healthcare services to homeless patients” and “serves as an important discharge option for San Francisco General and private hospitals as well as a drop off point for individuals with chronic alcoholism in need of stabilization services.”

Nair’s complaint doesn’t say what case he was in custody for in May 2014 when police allegedly injured him, but court records indicate that month he was charged with two counts of vandalism. One count was for $400 or more worth of damage and the other was for $50,000 or more worth of damage. He was also charged with making criminal threats. Nair pleaded not guilty to all counts.

After a trial in April, he was found guilty of the lesser vandalism count and not guilty of the other. The criminal threats charge was dismissed, according to court documents.

Nair was ordered to pay restitution and attend groups at the Court Accountable Case Management Center. People referred to the center participate in workshops while waiting to be placed in residential or outpatient programs, according to the center’s website.

CACMC’s groups include harm reduction and “Don’t Get Mad, Get Hyphy!” anger management.




— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 29, 2015 @ 1:43 pm PST
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SF, MAC AIDS Fund put $1.6 million toward eliminate AIDS cases

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other officials are joining MAC AIDS Fund this morning (Thursday, October 29) to announce $1.7 million in funding to make the city the first to “eliminate HIV/AIDS.”

As part of the “Getting to Zero” campaign, Lee, gay Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener, health department staff, and nonprofit representatives will meet at 9:30 a.m. at Lee’s office, Room 200 in City Hall, to announce the funding and outline the plan.

“Once the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, San Francisco is now a world leader in AIDS response and on a mission to be the first city to ‘Get to Zero,'” organizers said in a news release. Lee and others Thursday will announce “significant new funding and its rigorous plan to reach zero new HIV infections, deaths and stigma in San Francisco.”

Beth Cleveland, a spokeswoman for the New York-based MAC AIDS Fund, said her group is providing $500,000 of the $1.7 million. The city is contributing the rest.

City Hall is at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Plaza.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 9:30 am PST
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Carjacking at gunpoint in Castro

A man was carjacked at gunpoint in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood this week.

According to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, the incident occurred at 12:50 a.m. Sunday, October 25 in the 2000 block of Market Street, near the Castro Safeway.

The victim was in his black BMW X5 when one suspect opened a front door and another suspect opened a rear door. The suspects demanded that the victim get out of the SUV, and the first suspect “brandished a gun,” Esparza said in a summary.

The 31-year-old victim got out and fled from the suspects, who took his vehicle.

The suspects are described as two black males between the ages of 30 and 40.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 28, 2015 @ 4:02 pm PST
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Judge supports charge of lax security in SF Pride shooting lawsuit

The judge handling a lawsuit that involves a shooting at San Francisco’s 2013 LGBT Pride celebration has expressed support for the victim’s claim that lax security was to blame for the incident. The case is set for trial next month.

Shooting victim Trevor Gardner

Shooting victim Trevor Gardner

In his lawsuit filed in 2014, Trevor Gardner, 25, of Los Angeles, claimed the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee neglected to provide adequate security at the 2013 event.

The committee responded through court documents that Gardner had failed “to use diligent care,” and in July, the nonprofit filed a motion for summary judgment asking for the case to be decided without going to trial.

But in an order signed Wednesday, October 14, Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith firmly denied the Pride committee’s request, and suggested the group should require metal detectors and check people’s bags, among other measures.

“Even though defendant’s event included annual gun violence, defendant failed to sufficiently address a known and specific risk of injury of gun violence,” Goldsmith wrote. “It is not ‘pure speculation’ that defendant’s total failure to (1) establish a reasonable perimeter for their event; (2) establish secured entrances; (3) require metal detectors; (4) require bag and attendee checks; (5) provide enough security guards to meet industry standards; and (6) monitor overcrowding as recommended by the San Francisco Police Department in light of annual gun violence was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s gunshot wound.”

The judge continued that Gardner had provided “credible expert witness evidence that such security measures would lessen the specific probability of alcohol- and weapon-related violence occurring” at Pride.

“The causal link between defendant’s security failures and plaintiff’s injury is robust,” Goldsmith wrote.

Attorneys in the case weren’t immediately available today (Thursday, October 22).

No arrests have been reported in Gardner’s shooting.

At the time of the incident, gun violence had not been occurring annually at the festival, but a couple of shootings around Pride weekend had drawn attention in recent years.

In 2010, Stephen Powell, 19, was fatally shot at Pink Saturday, the annual pre-Pride festival in the Castro district that was organized by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Pride committee wasn’t responsible for the event, which the Sisters stopped producing this year, citing concerns about violence. (The city stepped in to replace Pink Saturday with Pink Party.) No one has been prosecuted in Powell’s killing.

In 2011, several people were injured in a shooting on Market Street near the Pride celebration, but police have said that incident didn’t appear to be related to Pride.

Eric Ryan, who was also hit in the 2013 shooting in which Gardner was a victim, filed his own lawsuit against the Pride committee this summer.

A man who had just attended this year’s Pride celebration was shot near where the party had taken place, but police have said the incident wasn’t directly connected to Pride. The victim, 64, was briefly hospitalized.

Joshua Spencer, 19, who allegedly shot the man after Spencer and several other men got into an argument, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges in the case. He remains in custody on $2.5 million bail.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 22, 2015 @ 3:26 pm PST
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SF police investigate robbery incidents

San Francisco police are investigating robbery-related incidents that occurred in the Castro district and near the Duboce Triangle area Wednesday.

A bank was targeted in one case, while the other involved a woman who fled into a medical marijuana dispensary.

At 10:22 a.m., a man handed a note to a bank teller in the 2200 block of Market Street “demanding money,” Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary of the October 21 incident.

The teller, a 23-year-old woman, put an undisclosed amount of money in a bag for the suspect, who fled with it.

The robber is described as a 35-year-old black male.

Esparza didn’t say which bank was robbed. The only bank in that block appears to be Wells Fargo Home Mortgage at 2258 Market. No one there was immediately available by phone today (Thursday, October 22).

Also Wednesday, at 2:15 p.m. in the 500 block of Fourteenth Street, a man approached a woman in her 20s, produced two handguns, and threatened her. The woman “ran back into the cannabis club and called police,” Esparza said.

The suspect is a black male age 20 to 25. His vehicle was described as a gray four-door Nissan Maxima.

Esparza didn’t include the name of the pot club in his summary.

A man who answered the phone at the Love Shack Cooperative marijuana dispensary, at 502 14th Street, said he didn’t know about the incident.

Anyone with information related to the cases may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number in the bank robbery is 150919973. The incident number for the attempted robbery is 150921213.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 10:57 am PST
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Trans SFPD officer to appear on TV show

Officer Broderick Elton. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Officer Broderick Elton. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Transgender San Francisco police officer Broderick Elton will be featured on the Fuse network TV series Transcendent tonight (Wednesday, October 21).

The series is centered around AsiaSF, the South of Market nightclub known for its transgender entertainers.

In tonight’s episode, Xristina, a Transcendent cast member and AsiaSF dancer, talks to Elton, the department’s liaison to the trans community, about how she’s considering a switch to law enforcement.

A news release from the SFPD calls the discussion “an honest, realistic talk about life on the force as a trans officer,” and says, “Xristina’s past as a victim of a hate crime is part of the inspiration for her desire to protect her community.”

Police Chief Greg Suhr stated, “Numerous transgender officers serve or have served the city with distinction, including a retired lieutenant and a current transgender patrol officer who was elected president of her police academy class. I am proud that the San Francisco Police Department is one of the most diverse police departments in the country, if not the world, and hope that you will tune in to this episode of Transcendent.”

The episode airs at 11:30.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 21, 2015 @ 5:10 pm PST
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Woman gets 2 years for Zipcar thefts

Nicole Dipo. Photo: Courtesy ABC7

Nicole Dipo. Photo: Courtesy ABC7

A San Francisco woman has been ordered to serve two years in county jail for stealing Zipcars.

Nicole Dipo, 29, originally pleaded not guilty in April to numerous charges related to taking vehicles from the short-term car rental company. But Dipo, who appears to be transgender, told ABC channel 7 that she did steal seven of the cars because it gave her “a high,” and in a deal reached in September, she pleaded guilty to counts of receiving or buying stolen property and unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle.

Monday, October 19, Dipo was sentenced to a total of five years in state prison, but with credit for time served and other factors, she’s expected to do two years in jail, according to court records. She’s also been ordered to serve three years of mandatory supervision.

Additionally, Dipo’s been ordered to stay away from Zipcars and to not possess any access cards to the cars.

City documents say Dipo’s also known as Ray Charles Dipo and Regina Dipo.

Ruth Edelstein, Dipo’s attorney, hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Court records show that in January 2010, Dipo was convicted of vehicle theft in San Francisco. Documents also indicate that around 2009 she was convicted of attempted auto theft.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:31 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Beating, robbery incidents reported in Castro

Two men were beaten and one of them was robbed recently in separate incidents in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

The first assault happened at 12:45 a.m. Monday, October 12 in the 4100 block of 18th Street when the suspect and victim were fighting in the street, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary of the incident. The suspect used a piece of glass to cut the victim and fled on foot, Esparza said.

The victim, 21, was left with a non-life threatening laceration to the head and taken to Davies Medical Center. The suspect is a male who’s 26 to 32 years old and who’s ethnicity wasn’t specified.

The robbery took place at 2:15 a.m. Saturday, October 10 at 18th and Collingwood streets. Four suspects – two men and two women – approached the victim from behind, grabbed him, “struck him several times,” and took his property before fleeing on foot, Esparza said.

The suspects took the 44-year-old victim’s cash, but he wasn’t injured.

The suspects are described as a black male in his 20s, a black female in her 30s, a Hispanic female in her 20s, and a black male age 40.

No arrests have been made in either case.

Anyone with information related to the cases may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number in the Monday assault is 150891197. The incident number for the Saturday robbery is 150890806.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 15, 2015 @ 3:24 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man knocked out in Castro fight; bank robbed


Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was knocked out in a fight with another man in San Francisco’s Castro district yesterday, and hours later, a bank was robbed in the same block.

The fight occurred when two men “were in line for food and got into a verbal argument” at 2 a.m. Wednesday, October 14 in the 400 block of Castro Street, according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

After the suspect punched the victim in the face twice, the victim fell to the ground, and the suspect struck him again. The victim, 55, “lost consciousness,” Esparza said, and the suspect, described only as a white male aged 20 to 30, fled the scene.

The victim was treated for lacerations to his face and hands and transported to San Francisco General Hospital.

Hours later, at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 400 block of Castro, a man gave a bank teller a note apparently demanding money. The teller complied and the suspect fled, Esparza said.

The suspect, who made off with an unspecified amount of money, is described as a white male in his 40s.

No arrests have been reported in either case.

Anyone with information related to the cases may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number for the assault is 150898361. The incident number for the bank robbery is 150899579.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:03 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF mayor’s gay homeless czar Bevan Dufty quits

Bevan Dufty (Courtesy SF mayor's office)

Bevan Dufty (Courtesy SF mayor’s office)

The gay man who has served as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar since 2012 unexpectedly quit today.

In a surprise announcement this afternoon (Monday, October 12), Lee said he had appointed Sam Dodge as the interim director of the office known as Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement or HOPE for short. Dodge had been serving as deputy director under former HOPE Director Bevan Dufty, who formerly had served as supervisor from District 8.

“You have to give residents hope, and I look forward to working with Sam in his new capacity to champion our city’s efforts to combat homelessness,” stated Lee.

Dufty had ran against Lee for mayor in 2011 and was one of the only candidates not to attack Lee during the race. His hiring to oversee Lee’s homeless policies was hardly a surprise, as Lee had told the Bay Area Reporter during the mayoral contest that he would welcome Dufty being a part of his administration if he won election to a full four-year term.

Dufty told the B.A.R. that he decided to step down to spend more time with his family. He informed Lee of his decision last Wednesday and his last day on the job will be Friday, November 6.

“My partner and my child had been on me since I turned 60 to retire. This is a great time in the sense the Navigation Center is doing so well as a new model to respond to street homelessness” said Dufty, referring to the new center recently created to move entire encampments of homeless people off the streets and into supportive housing.

For three decades Dufty has worked at City Hall in various capacities. He began as chief-of-staff to lesbian former Supervisor Susan Leal and then went to work in the administration of former Mayor Willie Brown before winning his supervisor seat.

Lee praised Dufty for his years of service to the city in the announcement about Dodge’s hiring.

“I thank Bevan for his commitment to making a real difference in people’s lives and tackling the challenges of homelessness in our city, and for implementing this new Navigation Center model of care and compassion for residents on our streets,” stated Lee. “I also thank Bevan for his more than 30 years of public service and for mentoring and preparing Sam for this new challenge.”

In addition to helping Dufty launch the Navigation Center, Dodge was also involved in the planning and implementation of the Mayor’s Streets to Homes initiative, whereby the city is master leasing 500 units of supportive housing for formerly homeless people moving out of the Navigation Center in 2015.

According to the mayor’s office, the first of those units are already welcoming residents, and the full 500 SRO units will be available by the end of the calendar year.

Dodge worked at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic for more than six years, beginning in June 2000 as a tenant organizer and was then promoted to program manager in December 2001 when the Central City SRO Collaborative was founded. Dodge was also a labor organizer for SEIU and the California Nurses’ Association.

He holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in New York City.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 12, 2015 @ 2:01 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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