Sketch released by police
in gay man's death;
reporting crime encouraged
by Seth Hemmelgarn
San Francisco police have released a sketch of a person of interest in the recent homicide of gay city resident Steven "Eriq" Escalon.
Escalon, 28, was found "bound, gagged, and deceased" at 6 p.m. June 12 in his bedroom at 5004 Diamond Heights Boulevard, police said in a bulletin released Tuesday, July 31. Sergeant Scott Warnke, of the San Francisco Police Department's homicide unit, hasn't said how Escalon appears to have been killed.
The bulletin says the suspect was seen getting into a cab with Escalon in front of the bar 440 Castro at about 1:30 a.m. the day he was killed. Escalon had visited "a few" bars in the neighborhood, police said.
The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic man, 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches, with a slim build. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt.
Police have suggested that whoever killed Escalon stole a TV and other items from his home.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)
Need to report crimes
Cases like Escalon's have concerned gay SFPD Inspector Len Broberg, who's seen "a little bit of an uptick" in such homicides in the last couple years. Broberg encourages people to report crimes to police, even those that may appear minor, in part because it can help prevent others from becoming victims.
He also talked about the importance of reporting crimes that may occur during hookups.
"We all make mistakes," Broberg said, "... Don't be embarrassed about it, and do what you can to help others from being victimized like you just were."
He said, "I couldn't even tell you" how many cases there have been of people hooking up with others then waking up to find wallets and other items have been taken. "So many of these instances are not reported."
Victims may have the reaction, "It wasn't that bad," but "each time somebody commits a crime, they become a little more bold," and it "increases the opportunity for the next time, where they have to use a greater level of violence," Broberg, who joined the police department 17 years ago, said.
"I can't tell you how many times we arrest guys that are in possession of property we know is stolen," such as driver's licenses and credit cards, "and it was never reported to the police," he said.
A key point about unreported crimes is that they cannot be prosecuted.
"If it's not reported to the police, then basically it's a crime that didn't happen, and it's a case that can't be prosecuted," Broberg said. He suggests taking a picture when one meets another person and decides to go home with them and sending the photo to friends.
Escalon isn't the only man who appears to have brought someone home with dire consequences.
Police in the Ingleside district recently reported that on July 12 a man in the 1100 block of Bosworth Street said that he'd "brought a friend home and he stayed until the early morning hours." The victim woke up to find property missing. Officers did a record check using the name provided by the victim, but found no matches.
In response to emailed questions, Ingleside Police Captain Daniel Mahoney said the victim is 65, and the suspect is 26. The older man had met the suspect downtown and brought him back to his apartment, where "heavy drinking occurred," Mahoney said. The victim told the other man to leave, then found money missing from his wallet and prescription pills missing from his bathroom, he said.
Mahoney said that so far this year, "This reported type of crime has occurred less than five times in the Ingleside."
Broberg said it frustrates him that by not reporting crimes, "We allow other people in our community to continue to be victimized by these guys, these predators. And they do prey on people."
Broberg is the investigating officer in a case involving Antoine Dilworth, who allegedly carjacked and stabbed a man he'd met in the Castro early in the morning of July 12. Dilworth has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the incident.
"It was not his first theft," Broberg said. "There was a pattern of theft," and the most recent incident "became violent."
Erin Crane, who's been appointed as Dilworth's attorney, didn't respond to an interview request.
Problems with police
But for some people in San Francisco, factors other than embarrassment can make them reluctant to report crimes to police.
Anna Rivera is office coordinator for El/La Para TransLatinas, which is primarily an HIV prevention organization.
Rivera, who is transgender and spoke of some of the challenges facing transgender Latinas, said one reason they don't report crimes is "because the police retaliate. They verbally assault the women themselves."
"I have not just seen it, I have experienced it in my own life," Rivera said. "... I've been called every name in the book," including by the police. Comments have included "faggot" and "Look, that man's trying to be a woman," she said.
Police "can be just as cruel" as others trying to assault transgender people, Rivera said. "You'd be surprised."
The women face crimes such as physical assaults and robberies in the area around 16th and Mission streets, where her agency's based, one to three times a week, she said.
"I would say more than half aren't reported," Rivera said.
She said there are also "many cases" of incidents not being reporting to police because the victims have "immigration issues," meaning they're undocumented.
Rivera said she's aware of the notion that reporting crimes to the police can help prevent incidents from happening to others, but she wondered why people would talk to officers if they're "just going to get harassed by the cops themselves?"
"Why am I going to go and report it if I'm going to sit there and get mocked while I'm making this report, which is what usually happens," Rivera said. Rivera said she hasn't filed complaints with the Office of Citizen Complaints.
Rivera also said, "We've asked for volunteers to come and escort some of the women home. That's how bad things are right now." She said that's been going "so-so."
"Some of the women choose not to, because it attracts more attention" from police, she said. When officers see a transgender person with someone who's not transgender, they assume they're prostituting, she said.
Isa Noyola, El/La's program supervisor, pointed to transphobia as an issue.
"One thing that's constant is the amount of transphobia that exists in our city," Noyola, who identifies as gender fluid, said. Other issues can also include language barriers.
Because of experiences with police and others, to think that transgender Latina women would consider police allies "or think of them as a resource is not reality," Noyola said.
There's a sense "that they have to figure it out on their own and they have to just swallow it," Noyola said.
Sergeant Chuck Limbert, who's the LGBT liaison for the SFPD's Mission Station and has often spoken about the importance of reporting crimes, didn't provide comment for this story, despite multiple interview requests.
Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's office, said, "We encourage the public to report crimes. Only by speaking up can we confront the problem together."
Anyone with information in the Escalon case is asked to call Warnke or Inspectors Daniel Dedet, Kevin Jones, or Robert Velarde at (415) 553-1145; after hours at the department operations center, (415) 553-1071; or the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. The case number is 120 463 273.