Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Probe of SF man's death continues

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Mourners place flowers on an altar in Duboce Park August 13 to memorialize Bryan "Feather" Higgins, a Faerie who was severely injured and taken off life support during the vigil. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Police are continuing their investigation into the death of a gay San Francisco man who was found injured in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood last week.

Bryan Higgins, 31, was found on the ground at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 10 near Church Street and Duboce Avenue. He died three days later in San Francisco General Hospital after his family took him off life support.

Friends and family are recalling their love for Higgins, while some indicated he had been troubled in the days before he died.

Officer Albie Esparza, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, has said Higgins's injuries were initially investigated as an attempted homicide and assault with a deadly weapon, but since Higgins was taken off life support, the police homicide unit is investigating the case.

Esparza has described the suspect in Higgins's death as a white male in his 20s or 30s wearing a gray hoodie, based on video surveillance footage. As of Tuesday, August 19, police weren't releasing photos of the suspect, and no arrests had been announced.

It's likely to be several months before the medical examiner's office releases the cause and manner of Higgins's death.

 

Vigil

At 3:30 p.m. last Wednesday, August 13, around the time Higgins was being removed from life support, about 200 people held hands and formed a circle at Duboce Park as burning incense drifted through the air and Muni trains ground along in the background.

Near one edge of the circle, an altar with flowers, candles, and glittery cloths sat on top of a large rainbow flag. Toward the end, a man called for several minutes of silence.

At about 3:38 p.m. he said, "Our brother is now at peace."

Michael Higgins, 34, last spoke with his brother Bryan the Friday before he died.

"I don't feel like it's real," Higgins, who lives in Galveston, Texas, said in a phone interview. "I don't want to believe the last time I talked to my brother on the phone, that was it."

He said Higgins was "full of energy" and "very spiritual." Whenever he visited his brother, "he was always giving me his stuff," including his bedroom. "He always put me first," he said.

Higgins described his brother as a "trendsetter."

"He did things Bryan's way, and he didn't care what other people thought," he said. "That was his way." But he was also "forgiving" and "nonjudgmental," Higgins said.

Higgins, who was originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, "loved San Francisco," but in their last conversation, he said he missed his family and wished "we could all be close together," Michael Higgins said.

Police are "really not saying much" about Bryan Higgins's death, his brother said.

Brian Hagerty, Bryan Higgins's husband, told a reporter who came to the couple's Noe Street apartment this week, "I'm not ready to talk yet."

The location where Higgins was found is near a Muni train line and a 24-hour Safeway.

Kenny King, 49, lives near the scene and said the area can be rough.

"I do my fair share" of calling the police for "quality of life issues," such as "loud screaming and arguing," he said.

 

Last days

Brian Busta, 50, was a neighbor and close friend of Bryan Higgins's.

"He was just really super free-spirited" and "creative," said Busta. "He was really a joy to be around."

Higgins was a member of the Faerie community, and Busta said that Higgins's Faerie name, Feather Lynn, fit him, since he was "flighty like a feather" and would "bop around."

But like others who saw Higgins in the days before he died, Busta suggested Higgins had been troubled.

The last time Busta saw Higgins was just hours before he was found.

"I was taking care of him on Saturday night," Busta, who'd known Higgins for six years, said. He said Higgins had been dealing with "medical issues."

Saturday, Higgins had been "getting too out of hand, running around like a cat in a cage," Busta said.

"We were trying to get the police here so we could get Feather into General [Hospital]," he said.

The first time police came, around 8 p.m., Higgins "took off out the back," and the officers left, Busta said. He and others "calmed [Higgins] down," but police were called back at about midnight, he said. Higgins had settled down again, though, he said.

The police said unless Higgins was a danger to himself or others, they couldn't do anything, Busta said. The Department of Emergency Management hasn't yet confirmed the calls for service.

Higgins eventually became "really mellow," Busta said. Friends assume he went to the park, where he liked to visit, at about 7 a.m. Sunday, just before he was found, Busta said, although he didn't see Higgins get up and go to the park.

"He was in and out so much in the last couple of days, it was hard to keep track of him," he said.

Busta said his friend hadn't seemed dangerous. "If anything, he was being super-crazy spiritual," he said, and "doing little ritual things" like "playing with feathers."

Higgins had been helping out at Rosenberg Deli, near his home. Issa Kort, 54, the shop's co-owner, said he thought of Higgins like a son.

"He was a great guy, and everybody loves him," Kort said. They used to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes together in the morning, and Higgins mentored Kort's son on a high school graduation project.

But two or three weeks before Higgins died, Kort noticed he was acting differently.

Sometimes he'd be "normal," but "other times he acted so strange," Kort said. He'd be "talking nonsense," he said, discussing things like the brain and spirits without connecting his thoughts.

"I just stood and listened to him ... I didn't want to hurt his feelings," Kort said.

Asked if it had seemed like his brother had been having any trouble, Michael Higgins said, "No, not really."

People interested in helping Higgins's family with funeral, medical, and other expenses may go to http://www.gofundme.com/d2snac.

Anyone with information in the case may call the police department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444, or text a tip to 847411 and type SFPD, then the message. The incident number is 140 665 807.

 

 

 






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