Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

Man accused of targeting gay men charged in SF

A man accused of targeting gay men has been charged with murder in the August death of a San Francisco resident.

Michael J. Phillips, 64, was booked into custody last week on charges including murder, first-degree robbery, inflicting injury on an elder or dependent adult, manufacture or possession of fraudulent financial documents, theft of access card, receiving or buying stolen property, and aggravated mayhem, according to the sheriff’s department.

Phillips, who pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday, is accused of killing James Sheahan, 75, “who was found dead with blunt force injuries” August 14 in his Nob Hill apartment, according to Bay City News.

BCN says that prosecutors alleged at Phillips’ arraignment Tuesday that he “has a history of preying on sick elderly men in the gay community,” and that “Phillips befriended Sheahan, seeking to act as a sort of caretaker, and tried to get money from him before killing him when he refused.”

Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said in court that video footage shows Phillips coming and going from Sheahan’s apartment, and Phillips was eventually found to have things that belonged to Sheahan, according to BCN, which also said that Swart said Phillips may have also stolen guns and other items from two other men.

Max Szabo, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, told the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday, “At this time it remains unclear if we will be able to take action into the two preivous instances of alleged theft  in light of the statute of limitations and the subsequent passing of those two victims.”

Szabo said he couldn’t share more details about the other men, and he declined to discuss evidence related to the Sheahan case. He said that Sheahan is the only victim listed in the charges against Phillips.

Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, who represented Phillips Tuesday, didn’t respond to the B.A.R.’s request for comment Wednesday morning.

The San Francisco Police Department declined to release Phillips’ booking photo, saying in an email, “There is still an open investigation and pending ID matters.”

The medical examiner’s office hasn’t issued a final determination of the cause and manner of Sheahan’s death.

Phillips next court date is Thursday, November 30.

The B.A.R. will have more on this story in the Thursday, December 6 edition.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 29, 2017 @ 12:33 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Robberies, shootout in Castro

Two people were robbed and a shootout occurred Sunday night and early Monday morning in San Francisco’s Castro district, according to police.

The first robbery took place when a woman was walking home at about 10 p.m.

The woman, 31, was in the 300 block of Church Street, near 15th Street, when two other women approached her, pulled her to the ground, and stole her purse, which contained her wallet, cash, keys, and credit cards, police said. The suspects, who appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 30, then got into a vehicle that fled north on Church.

Then, at 11:30 p.m., a man got into an argument with two other men in the 2300 block of Market Street, near Noe Street. The suspects, who are 26, punched the victim, stole his cellphone, and ran away, police said.

Finally, at about 1 a.m. Monday, police responded to a shot spotter activation at 17th and Church streets. Witnesses said that people in two vehicles had been shooting at each other before fleeing south on Church and then east on 18th Street. Casings were recovered at the scene.

The victims in the robbery cases were left with non-life threatening injuries, according to police. No one was injured in the shootout.

No arrests have been reported in any of the incidents.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 21, 2017 @ 4:38 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Tenderloin Tessie’s Thanksgiving dinner set

The annual Tenderloin Tessie’s Thanksgiving dinner is set for 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, November 23 at First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin Street in San Francisco.

The free dinner includes ham, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, coffee, pumpkin pie, and more. There will also be live entertainment, gift bags, and free clothes. The Lava Mae bus will be on hand for people who want showers.

Volunteer shifts are available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, November 22, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.

To volunteer, email Michael Gagne at TenderloinTessie@yahoo.com or call him at (415) 584-3252.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:30 pm PST
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Hearing continued for SJ man in sexual assault case

Lamar Dekari Stevens (Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff's Dept.)

Lamar Dekari Stevens (Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Dept.)

A hearing for a San Jose man accused of sexually assaulting another man in August has been delayed as the defendant’s attorney continues to investigate the case.

Lamar Dekari Stevens, 36, had been set for a preliminary hearing Monday, but his attorney, Jeff Jackson, got the hearing continued until January 4.

According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, just before 5 a.m. on August 11, Stevens “forced” his way into the 65-year-old victim’s Menlo Park home through an unlocked window, covered the victim’s mouth, “held a knife to his throat, and demanded money.”

After the victim gave Stevens $40, Stevens sexually assaulted him, Wagstaffe said in a case summary. He then allegedly “demanded the victim’s car keys and credit cards.”

The “victim escaped to a neighbor’s home and called 911,” said Wagstaffe. Police responded “quickly” and saw Stevens running toward a pedestrian footbridge over Highway 101.

After police released their dog, Stevens “jumped 30 feet to the ground, breaking his ankle,” said Wagstaffe.

Prosecutors didn’t object Monday to the continuance of the preliminary hearing, when a judge will determine whether there’s sufficient evidence to continue holding Stevens for trial.

Stevens is being held on $8 million bail in Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City. His charges include sexual battery involving a restrained person/masturbation, oral copulation by force or fear, sodomy by use of force, attempted sodomy by use of force, assault to commit mayhem or rape during the commission of first-degree burglary, and felony parole violation, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

Wagstaffe said Stevens already has a felony strike for a previous case.

Jackson, Stevens’ attorney, declined to comment for this story.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:29 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Farley named new trans adviser by SF mayor

by Sari Staver

Clair Farley, the director of economic development at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center for the past 11 years, has been named the mayor’s senior adviser on transgender initiatives, replacing Theresa Sparks, a trans woman who is retiring.

(Clair Farley)

(Clair Farley)

Farley, 34, is a transgender woman and will begin the position December 4.

“Clair Farley has been an inspirational leader in our city on LGBTQ economic and social rights issues,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a news release. “In her new role she will carry on the important work that Theresa Sparks set in motion and will assure that San Francisco continues to pioneer policies and programming that inspire the rest of the country to follow suit. San Francisco has a long-standing commitment to advancing and protecting the rights of the transgender community and with Clair’s leadership we will continue our work to make San Francisco a safer, more diverse, and more equitable city.”

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Farley said she was honored to have been appointed to the job.

“This has been a remarkable month despite these challenging times, with over seven transgender candidates winning elections across the country and the passing of vital trans policy in California,” Farley wrote.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more in Thursday’s paper.

— Cynthia Laird, November 20, 2017 @ 1:34 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Homeless people, activists to sleep out at Powell St. BART

Homeless people and their allies will lay out their sleeping bags at 5 p.m. Thursday at San Francisco’s Powell Street BART station to protest what the Coalition on Homelessness calls “ongoing abuses of homeless people and the failure of the city to provide adequate housing.”

The action, which will include live music, movie screenings, and free haircuts, comes as other organizations are also planning “Sleep Out” events this week.

There are more than 1,100 adults on a waitlist for shelter beds, the coalition said in a news release, which also pointed to the tent encampments that have become common in the city.

“It is clear that now is the time for long-term solutions, not shortsighted political posturing or band-aid solutions,” the coalition said. “Unfortunately the city has chosen to ramp up sweeps of encampments rather than offer housing to those struggling on the streets.”

According to the group, campers have spoken of losing family heirlooms, medications, and other belongings during the sweeps.

“The ongoing criminalization of poor and homeless people serves only to exacerbate existing addictions and mental health issues, while doing nothing to place people in stable housing,” Sam Lew, the coalition’s policy director, stated. “This Sleep Out action will call attention to the inhumanity of move along to nowhere homeless sweeps and cry out for real solutions.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 16, 2017 @ 4:29 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man robbed on Muni train near Duboce Park

A man was robbed on a Muni train near San Francisco’s Duboce Park Wednesday night.

According to police, the 61-year-old victim was riding the train at about 8:15 p.m. When the train stopped at Duboce and Noe streets, another man, who appeared to be 20, punched him and took his cellphone before leaving the train and fleeing in an unknown direction.

The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

No arrests have been reported.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:40 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF police association head wants apology from DeJesus for Taser comments

The president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association is calling on lesbian police commissioner Petra DeJesus to apologize for calling officers who use Tasers “lazy.”

DeJesus was one of three commissioners who voted November 3 against equipping officers with Tasers, which are also known as Electronic Control Devices. (DeJesus’ effort was unsuccessful, as the motion passed 4-3.)

According to POA President Martin Halloran’s November 15 letter to DeJesus, she told KTVU TV on the day of the vote, “Using Tasers is the lazy cops’ way of getting someone to do something. Oh, if you don’t move quickly enough, I’ll tase you. If you don’t get out of the car, I’ll tase you. It’s a hands on job. They can use other things.”

Halloran told DeJesus, “You have an important position in our community to make such ill-informed and juvenile remarks. You embarrassed not only your colleagues on the commission but all of the hard-working officers on our streets who are trying to make a difference in people’s lives. You seem to think law enforcement is a game. It’s not. Go go a midnight watch line-up at Bayview Station [one of the city’s most crime-ridden districts] or any other station for that matter and explain to them why you think using ECDs is a lazy option.”

He added that DeJesus should either apologize to the officers of the San Francisco Police Department “or have the courage to tell them to their face that you believe they are lazy.”

DeJesus didn’t immediately respond to the Bay Area Reporter’s requests for comment. The longtime police commissioner has opposed Tasers for years, and earlier this year, Supervisor Ahsha Safei backed labor leader Olga Miranda’s effort to unseat DeJesus. Miranda eventually ended her bid after the B.A.R. and other media outlets reported on allegations that she’d been physically and verbally abusive toward others.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:18 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Traffic stop data collection rules finalized; includes LGBT info

Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Attorney General Xavier Becerra

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday that the regulations drafted by the state Department of Justice for collecting law enforcement stop data have been finalized.

With the regulations, which are part of Assembly Bill 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, officers will have to track their perception of each person’s race, gender, and whether they perceive that person as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, among other provisions.

The nine largest agencies will begin collecting the stop data July 1, 2018 and report it to the DOJ.

“Public safety is a job for all of us – our peace officers, of course, but a cooperative citizenry as well,” Becerra said in a news release. “Trust is the glue that makes the relationship between law enforcement and the community work. This new RIPA data collection and reporting process is meant to strengthen, and in some cases repair, that trust.”

Along with perceived orientation and gender identity, officers will also be required to collect information on the reason for and result of the stop.

Chief Edward Medrano, Co-Chair of the RIPA Advisory Board and President of the California Police Chiefs Association, stated that the association “has routinely proven to be a collaborative partner with various stakeholders throughout California in our efforts to increase public safety and enhance community trust in law enforcement. The Racial and Identity Profiling Act and the recently approved regulations is another tool to ensure our officers continue to provide fair and impartial policing to the communities we serve.”

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who authored AB 953, said, “With these regulations we will have the comprehensive hard data necessary to understand the scope of the problem and to make practical decisions about how to reduce over-policing persons of color, a practice that wastes resources, engenders mistrust and compromises public safety.”

More information is available at www.oag.ca.gov/ab953/regulations.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 15, 2017 @ 5:20 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF Symphony’s Tilson Thomas selected for CA Hall of Fame

by Cynthia Laird

San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame, Governor Jerry Brown’s office announced Tuesday, November 14.

(SF Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Photo: Courtesy SF Symphony)

(SF Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Photo: Courtesy SF Symphony)

Tilson Thomas, a gay man, recently announced that he will step down in 2020, after 25 years with the symphony.

According to the symphony’s website, Tilson Thomas, 72, is currently the longest-tenured music director at any major American orchestra. Tilson Thomas became the symphony’s 11th music director in September 1995.

Tilson Thomas and the orchestra have been praised for innovative programming, enhancing the orchestral concert experience with multimedia and creative staging, showcasing the works of American composers, and attracting new audiences to orchestral music, both at home at Davies Symphony Hall and through the orchestra’s extensive media projects, the website noted.

The California Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, December 5, at the California Museum in Sacramento.

According to the Sacramento Bee, which broke the news Tuesday, other inductees include: comedian Lucille Ball, former Oakland Raiders and Stanford University quarterback Jim Plunkett, director Steven Spielberg, bioscientist Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Native American artist and activist Mabel McKay, Nobel Prize recipient and atmospheric chemist Mario J. Molina, poet Gary Snyder, and vintner Warren Winiarski.

Tilson Thomas will be the fourth out gay man inducted. There have also been two lesbians, and a woman who had a same-sex relationship but doesn’t identify as LGBT.

This week’s Bay Area Reporter arts section in Thursday’s paper will have more on Tilson Thomas.

— Cynthia Laird, November 14, 2017 @ 3:21 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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