Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 40 / 1 October 2015

Man held in SF after arson attempt aimed at ‘demons’

A 25-year-old man who allegedly told police that he was “getting rid of demons” as he lit a fire near San Francisco’s Dolores Park Thursday has been held for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation, according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

The suspect “was lighting paper on fire on the public stairway” at 3:30 p.m. 19th and Sanchez streets, Esparza said in a summary today (Friday, September 11). After the man told police about the demons, he was detained under the state’s 5150 code, which is where someone is held involuntarily for up to three days while they’re assessed for possible psychiatric disorders.

Esparza declined to release the suspect’s name and city of residence, saying since it was “a 5150 detention” those details are “not public record.”

No injuries or damages were reported.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 11, 2015 @ 10:32 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man punched, robbed in Castro

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was punched and robbed in San Francisco’s Castro district Sunday morning.

In the incident, which occurred at 3 a.m. September 7 in the 400 block of Castro Street, the suspect punched the victim, 26, in the face and took his laptop, smartphone, wallet, driver’s license, and headphones before fleeing.

The victim wasn’t injured. No suspect description was available.

Anyone with information in in the case may call the San Francisco Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 150704221.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 9, 2015 @ 4:34 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man arrested for alleged bathroom peeping at UC-Berkeley

Richard C. Anderson. Photo: UCPD.

Richard C. Anderson. Photo: UCPD.

A man was arrested at UC-Berkeley last weekend for allegedly videotaping another man in a restroom stall. Police are seeking additional victims.

University police arrested Richard C. Anderson, 71, Sunday, September 7 on suspicion of invasion of privacy and vandalism. It’s not clear if the district attorney’s office has formally charged him.

The incident occurred at about 4:50 p.m. in the lower level of the Martin Luther King, Jr. student union building.

The victim, 49, had entered a restroom stall when he saw someone reaching under the stall with a smartphone. The victim yelled, left the restroom, and told a building employee, who called police, according to the agency.

Responding officers saw Anderson in the restroom with a smartphone and a drill, which he’d allegedly used to make a hole in the stall wall.

County records indicate Anderson’s not in custody. His contact information and court details couldn’t immediately be located.

Police are asking anyone who used the first floor men’s restroom in the MLK building Sunday or who has any information about the incident to immediately contact police detective Sergeant Andrew Tucker at (510) 664-9687 or

Tucker and other police didn’t respond to the Bay Area Reporter’s calls today (Wednesday, September 9).


— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:37 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Coffeehouses’ parklet proposal divides Castro merchants

The owners of Reveille Coffee Co. want to install a parklet in two of the parking spaces fronting their business.

The owners of Reveille Coffee Co. on 18th Street want to install a parklet in two of the parking spaces fronting their business.

A proposal by the owners of a coffeehouse in the heart of the Castro has divided business owners in the city’s gay neighborhood.

Brothers Chris and Thomas Newbury have applied with the city to install a parklet in two parking spaces in front of their Reveille Coffee Co. at 4080 18th Street. Their request will be heard by the city’s Department of Public Works at a hearing in late September.

The coffeehouse opened nearly a year ago in a renovated garage space and has become a popular spot to grab a drink and food and sit in the sidewalk-fronting patio. The siblings installed a parklet at their North Beach location, which they say has been positively received by residents and other merchants of that neighborhood, and would like to do the same at their Castro location.

“It turned out to be great. It was voted one of the top five prettiest parklets in San Francisco,” said Chris Newbury of their first parklet. “We have a vision for 18th Street and transforming it into a beautiful place for the neighborhood and people visiting the city.”

A number of their patrons and nearby businesses are in support, and at its meeting this morning, the Castro Merchants business group narrowly voted to endorse the parklet project. But many Castro merchants who attended voiced strong objections to seeing a parklet be installed on 18th Street.

Not only do they object to the removal of the two parking spaces, they also raised concerns that the parklet would be a magnet for homeless people. They noted the ongoing problems the neighborhood has had with bad behavior at the nearby Jane Warner Plaza, a mini pedestrian plaza carved out of a segment of 17th Street.

And they recall the issues that came up when a parklet was installed on the 500 block of Castro Street several years ago that was not properly attended to and eventually removed when the city extended the sidewalks last year along the roadway.

“The reality of the Castro is different than in North Beach,” said Terry Asten Bennett, whose family owns Cliff’s Variety on Castro Street. “Eighteenth Street is already a traffic nightmare with delivery trucks and the Muni buses.”

Thomas Newbury noted that the parklet will be a temporary structure and “can be removed anytime if it is not working.”

They have yet to determine what the parklet would look like, since the city’s permitting process does not require applicants to submit final construction plans prior to receiving approval to install the structures.

“We will design it so homeless people wouldn’t want to sleep there,” Thomas Newbury told the merchant group.

The DPW hearing on their application will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, September 23 in Room 400 at City Hall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 3, 2015 @ 3:01 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF sheriff finalizes trans program, housing policy

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has finalized plans to stop classifying transgender inmates who have not had surgery according to their birth sex. The move, which is part of a pilot program resulting from meetings between transgender advocates and city staff, means that trans women will no longer be housed with men.

It will take at least a few months for the housing transitions to begin, but in the meantime, transgender inmates will have access to programming that other people in jail already get to participate in, the sheriff’s department said in its policy dated Tuesday, September 1.

In an interview Tuesday, Mirkarimi said he aims to start moving transgender women out of male housing before the end of the year.

The policy addresses training for staff and other inmates and assessing transgender inmates’ needs, among other topics.

Mirkarimi’s office “is deeply committed to recognizing and respecting all people’s gender identities,” the document says. It also refers to the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. The 2012 federal standards are meant to help stop sexual abuse of inmates.

“Those regulations address the safety and treatment of inmates who have been victims of sexual assault and the discipline and prosecution of those who commit these acts,” the department says, adding it “has a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.”

The sheriff’s department “recognizes that increasing educational and vocational opportunities is paramount to reducing recidivism and helping offenders successfully re-enter their communities,” the policy, which describes the agency as “a national leader” for its programs, says. “Just as importantly, it will allow all inmates to preserve their dignity during a period of incarceration.”

The “unprecedented action” has already started, with Mirkarimi directing that transgender people currently housed at County Jail 4, a men’s facility, will have opportunities to participate in programming at County Jail 2, which houses cis women.

“Case managers and program staff are identifying what programs will be most appropriate for the identified inmates,” the sheriff’s office says. Gender non-conforming people will be classified and their treatment plans will be “developed on a case by case basis.”

The policy says, “Any change to current protocol involves reorienting and retraining the way staff operate and training in cultural competency. The manner in which inmates view and understand transgender inmates must also be retrained. Modeling respective behavior, providing continued close supervision of inmates, and promptly intervening to interrupt any disrespect, harassment, or abuse of inmates is essential to ensure the safety and security of the facility as a whole.”

An advisory review board will identify program participants before the implementation.

The group will consider the inmate’s self-identification, criminal history, current charges, medical information, psychiatric stability, and other factors as it makes decisions.

The board will consist of people form the sheriff’s department and a community member who has to be approved by the sheriff.

A case manager will assess people’s needs and inform Mirkarimi’s agency on which programs are “most appropriate.” Current opportunities include the Five Keys Charter School, self-esteem groups, job training, re-entry classes, drug and alcohol abuse education, social service referrals, and exercise sessions.

In addressing training for staff, the document says, “Deputies shall complete culturally competent training on transgender and gender non-conforming issues.”

The training curriculum is meant to ensure that deputies respect inmates’ identities by using the correct pronouns and allowing access “to gender affirming items.”

Among other elements, the training will also include educating sworn staff “to ensure appropriate actions are taken to address violence against or harassment of transgender inmates.”

The policy also covers transgender men, but the jail population generally sees more trans women inmates.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 2, 2015 @ 2:57 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man beaten, robbed in Castro

A man was beaten and robbed Thursday night in San Francisco’s Castro district.

The August 27 incident started at 10:45 when a fight erupted in front of the victim, who’d been waiting at a bus stop at 18th and Castro streets.

After the victim, 31, helped stop the fight, the three suspects “ganged up” on him, punched him, and stole his silver necklace, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary.

The suspects were described as two white males and a white female, ages 19 to 20.

The victim was left with a swollen eye.

Anyone with information about the case may 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 incident number is 150752858.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 28, 2015 @ 12:47 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Assault, two burglaries reported in Castro

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was assaulted and two homes were burglarized in San Francisco’s Castro district in recent days.

The beating occurred Friday, August 21 around 10:30 to 10:50 p.m. at 18th and Douglass streets.

The suspect approached the victim, who had just left a bar, and punched him in the head.

The victim, 41, fell “and continued to be assaulted,” Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary. The suspect then fled the scene.

No description of the suspect was available.

The victim was left with bruising to the face and a laceration to the eye. He declined to be taken to the hospital. Nothing was taken in the incident.

The most recent burglary occurred at 10:56 p.m. Tuesday, August 25 in the 500 block of Sanchez Street.

The suspect entered the premises while the male victims, who are 55 and 50 years old, were home. The suspect “kicked in two locked doors, destroyed the house alarm system and system panel, and shattered a glass door panel,” Esparza said. The suspect, described only as a white man in his 30s, then fled.

Another Castro burglary occurred sometime between 10:30 p.m. Sunday, August 23 and 8:30 a.m. Monday, August 24 in the 4000 block of 18th Street.

In that incident, a 25-year-old man woke up to find that his computer, bike, and gym bag had been stolen as he slept. No suspect description was available.

Anyone with information about the cases may 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 incident numbers are: 150732747 for the assault, 150745916 for the burglary on Sanchez, and 150740615 for the burglary on 18th.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 27, 2015 @ 11:45 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Higgins’ death ruled a homicide

Bryan "Feather" Higgins

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.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 21, 2015 @ 8:18 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man held in Castro stabbing

Michael Gomez, a.k.a. Michael Adams

Michael Gomez, a.k.a. Michael Adams. Photo: Courtesy SFPD

A San Francisco man is in custody after he allegedly stabbed another man in the Castro district last weekend.

Michael Gomez, 35, of San Francisco, was arrested Sunday morning, August 15 after a man was stabbed and a woman was punched in the 400 block of Castro Street, according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

The incident occurred at 3 a.m. Sunday when the woman, 22, saw the suspect arguing with a 27-year-old man. The woman stepped into the middle of the argument and the suspect punched her in the nose. He then took out a knife and stabbed the man “several times,” Esparza said.

When the two victims chased the suspect, who’d taken off on foot, he again punched the woman in the nose. The man suffered non-life threatening lacerations to his arm and bicep, and he was taken to Davies Medical Center. No injuries were listed for the woman.

Esparza said police arrested Gomez, who’s also known as Michael Adams, and booked him into custody on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, battery, and parole violation.

A clerk at the public defender’s office said today (Wednesday, August 19) that the case against Gomez had been dismissed. She didn’t have any information explaining why. One possibility is that his probation is being revoked and prosecutors don’t plan to file formal charges. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a text message today.

[Update Thursday, August 20] DA spokesman Alex Bastian said Gomez’s case was referred to the parole department.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 19, 2015 @ 3:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay SF City College trustee secures Democratic Party endorsement

City College Trustee Alex Randolph

City College Trustee Alex Randolph

Gay San Francisco City College Trustee Alex Randolph has secured the local Democratic Party’s endorsement in his race to keep his seat this fall.

Randolph, who was tapped by Mayor Ed Lee in April to fill a vacancy, is running to finish out the remainder of the term, which expires in 2016. Opposing him are gay nightlife promoter Thomas Temprano, a co-owner of Mission bar Virgil’s Sea Room, and Wendy Aragon, who works in the construction industry and last year unsuccessfully vied for a seat on the community college district board. A fourth candidate, Jason Zeng, also filed to run by the August 7 deadline to do so with elections officials.

The more moderate Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club is also backing Randolph, who served on its board, while the progressive Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has endorsed Temprano, its former president. As the Political Notebook in today’s Bay Area Reporter noted, Aragon has the support of a number of local unions and this week picked up the endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council.

The down ticket contest for city college board is one of three on the November 3 ballot seen as highly competitive races. The other two being the elections for sheriff and the supervisor of District 3, which covers North Beach and Chinatown.

At its meeting last night (Wednesday, August 12), the Democratic County Central Committee, which votes on the local party’s endorsements, also backed the more moderate candidates in those races.

The current holder of the District 3 seat, Supervisor Julie Christensen, who was appointed to fill a vacancy by Lee earlier this year, won the DCCC’s backing in her race against former District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who had served as board president and is a leading progressive voice in city politics.

Wilma Pang, who last ran for the seat in 2012, is once again in the running this year. But most of the focus on the race has been the match-up between Christensen and Peskin.

In the sheriff’s race it was the incumbent, former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who came up short last night. The DCCC threw its support behind Vicki Hennessy, who briefly served as interim sheriff four years ago after Lee suspended Mirkarimi due to his being charged with domestic violence following a fight he had with his wife, Eliana Lopez.

Mirkarimi ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to undergo counseling and serve three years of probation. He escaped being officially removed from office when four Board of Supervisors members voted in October of 2012 not to sustain Lee’s official misconduct charges against the sheriff.

He was re-instated to the post, and this spring, had his false-imprisonment conviction expunged from his record. But the scandal has continued to engulf the sheriff and his allies ever since.

And his tenure has been beset by a series of missteps and controversies that have the beleaguered sheriff fighting for his political life. John C. Robinson, a retired sheriff’s deputy who now owns a private security company, is also in the race.

— Matthew S. Bajko, August 13, 2015 @ 11:30 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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