Bryan “Feather” Higgins
The death of Bryan “Feather” Higgins, 31, a gay San Francisco man attacked just over one year ago, has been ruled a homicide, the Bay Area Reporter learned this morning (Friday, August 21) from the medical examiner’s office.
The agency’s report on Higgins’ death says lists the method of death as “assault,” and the cause as “complications of ruptured cerebral artery aneurysm,” with “physical altercation” noted by other conditions. The report is dated August 19 and was made available for the first time today.
Police have identified a person of interest in the case, but a department spokesman has indicated investigators had been waiting for the medical examiner to decide whether it was a homicide before pursuing the man. Police spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions today.
[Update Friday, August 21]: Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in an email, “The investigation portion remains the same. Homicide has handled this case since it occurred,” and the case remains “open and active.” [End update]
Higgins was punched outside 100 Church Street, across from the Castro district Safeway, August 10, 2014, according to a witness. Higgins died three days later at San Francisco General Hospital after his family had him taken off life support.
The medical examiner’s report says, “The most likely cause of the aneurysmal rupture is a blow to the left side of the head. If the aneurysm was pre-existing, a blow to the head may have caused the rupture, or the effects of being in a fight with concomitant rise in blood pressure and stress may have cause the aneurysm to burst.”
The report also notes that when Higgins was examined at the scene, he had “no visible trauma, bleeding, or deformity anywhere on his body. No head injury was noted,” and there was “[n]o injury to his mouth or bleeding from his ears.”
Brian Busta, 51, a friend and neighbor of Higgins’, has said that hours before he was attacked, Higgins had been dealing with “medical issues” and behaving erratically.
John Stone, who saw Higgins being attacked, said he’d been antagonizing people who were waiting in line for breakfast at a nearby church. A man from the line told Higgins to stop and eventually followed him into the street, then punched him repeatedly and left him lying on the sidewalk.
Soon after Higgins died, police released a video that they say shows a man chasing after him and starting to assault him.
Several months ago, a source told the B.A.R. the name of the man he believes hit Higgins.
In an email exchange earlier this year, Esparza confirmed that the man is a “person of interest” in the case but expressed concern that naming the man might compromise the investigation. The man is “not a suspect,” said Esparza.
“We are waiting still on the results of the medical examiner’s autopsy to see if it’s a homicide,” he said. “We have to wait for the cause officially.”
Facebook photos of the man identified as a person of interest appear to match the man in the video footage.
The toxicology report released today says that Higgins had marijuana in his system, but no other drugs besides caffeine and nicotine.
Higgins was part of the Radical Faerie community and was also known as Feather Lynn.
Jerry Deal, 39, a friend of Higgins’, said shortly after his death, “He was the kindest, gentlest, freest spirit I’ve ever met, and I’ve been blessed to have amazing friends.”
In an interview earlier this month, Busta said, “We’re all missing him. It was just a hard thing for the whole neighborhood. Then, that it’s not solved … It leaves you with an empty feeling.”
Esparza asks that anyone with information about suspect or other details in the case contact the police anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text-a-tip to TIP411 with SFPD at the start of the message. The police report number is 140 665 807.
The B.A.R. will have more on this story in the Thursday, August 27 edition.