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Close Encounters

April 1, 2016

There is no question that both residents of The City as well as our much-valued visitors are suffering greatly from the outrageous increase in auto burglaries. So when Officer Jose Mora and Officer Ruben Augirre of Taraval Station attended their midnight line-up they paid particular attention to the auto and suspects detailed in a Crime Bulletin as possibly being responsible for a great number of these offenses in the Sunset District. It was only 4 hours later when the officers located and stopped this particular vehicle with 2 on board. Even though they did not have enough justification to make the arrest at this time, they did uncover invaluable information that other investigators needed to prepare an arrest warrant. Now it’s only a matter of time . . .

It’s early afternoon when a person is accosted and stabbed numerous times by an assailant on the 400 block of Powell. The victim barely survives the ride to the hospital. There was sufficient video and eyewitness reports to make at least a partial identification of the suspect responsible. 5 hours later, Lieutenant Sam Christ and Sergeant Patrick Zapponi, Central Station, managed to track the wanted suspect down with their many years of experience and took him into custody. The arrestee still had the weapon with him and was subsequently booked for attempted murder.

Also in the Central District a valet employee was robbed of his cell phone by a woman armed with a stabbing instrument. He tried to recover his property but thought better of it when the suspect came after him. A few minutes later the victim flagged down Officer Randy Tiffany and Officer Taylor Sherman and gave them a description of the armed robbery suspect. It didn’t take long before Randy and Taylor located the individual responsible, standing in the middle of the street waving the weapon in the air warding off invisible demons. The officers were able to take this individual, who was already on felony probation for other thefts, into custody and recovered the victim’s phone as well.

The officers were responding to a call of a person armed with a gun when they saw an individual on the 2500 block of San Bruno Avenue who matched the description. He disappeared temporarily into a residential unit so Officer Eric Eastlund, Officer Christopher Leong, Officer Patrick Faye, Officer Paul Wilgus, and Officer Louis Hargreaves had a little more investigating to do until they located the suspect’s exact location. Turned out the individual involved was a known gang affiliate who had a search condition as a result of his probation. The officers contacted the suspect and subsequently located a 40 caliber semi-automatic weapon which he was not supposed to have in his possession due to a prior conviction of assault with a deadly weapon . . .

The woman who admitted she was violently assaulted by her children’s father was still openly terrified of the suspect when she approached Officer Michael Beaird and Officer Curran Gong and told them what had happened. Upon further investigation, the officers identified the suspect as being one of the top “firearm offenders” in the Bayview District. He also had a prior felony conviction for aggravated assault with a gun. The officers, along with Sergeant Eric Lau, Sergeant Kevin Murray, Officer Kyle Thomas and Officer Colin Patino, then responded to the suspect’s residence and located him outside. A further investigation was conducted including the obtaining of a search warrant for the suspect’s home. Inside the officers found evidence of a burglary that had recently occurred in the Taraval District for which the suspect was charged along with a number of felony domestic violence offenses.

Officer Jonathon Lucchetti, Officer Michael Gerchow, Officer Leo Bernstein, and Officer Rufino Velasquez were conducting a Muni fare inspection patrol on the 3rd Street line and encountered 2 individuals who needed to be cited for failing to pay their fare. The one individual cooperated fully but the other tried to take off in a sprint from the Muni platform where he was detained. The officers managed to wrestle this subject to the ground and take him into custody. They later found out that he was wanted on a felony warrant out of Eureka, California with bail set in the 6 figure amount for possession of explosives and shooting up a house.

Next time he’ll pay the fare . . .

It’s late afternoon and SFPD Dispatch receives a call from an individual on the unit block of Turk Street who said he just stabbed himself and did not want to live. The Dispatcher relayed this information to Officer Michael Ross and Officer Carlos Castro working the Tenderloin Task Force, When the officers got to the caller’s apartment the suicidal subject was standing naked in the doorway completely covered in his own blood. He had self-inflicted wounds to his jugular vein, trachea, and numerous stab wounds to his chest. Officers Ross and Castro managed to have the subject lay down so they could start first aid, applying pressure to as many of the open cuts as possible when he suddenly became combative. Now the officers were forced to wrestle with the man they were trying to save all within a narrow hallway that was covered in blood. Officer Ross eventually had to relinquish control of the bleeding from the trachea and jugular so that paramedics on the scene could replace the pressure he was maintaining with larger dressings at which time a separate stream of blood shot out from both points of the incisions made. The injured man was rushed to SFGH where the treating physicians said that he had sliced 86% of his trachea and had to have a massive blood transfusion in the operating room to save his life. All of the doctors involved in his emergency treatment stated that the only reason the patient was still alive was because of the life-saving measures Officer Ross and Officer Castro had taken. 

The 2 individuals setting off fireworks on a late night at Broadway and Columbus were also drinking from open alcoholic containers. Officer Nathalie Peraza and Officer Justin Leach decided to end the unauthorized celebration. The officers approached the pair and while one of the subjects stood his ground, the other ran away. The officers gave chase to the individual who obviously didn’t want to be part of any police contact. He was subsequently detained and it was soon apparent why he decided to try and leave. He was armed with a fully-loaded 9mm Glock semi-automatic weapon with access to an extended clip with 30 more rounds all hidden under the loose sweatshirt he was wearing.

The actions Officer Nathalie Peraza and Officer Justin Leach took while making this arrest placed them in harm’s way more than they knew. They had no idea at the time that the person they were dealing with was a felon convicted of serious crimes against others in both San Francisco and Sacramento. And they had no clue that he was carrying a loaded, 9mm Glock semi-automatic weapon with an extended magazine carrying 30 rounds at his disposal! But, unfortunately, that’s the nature of this job. Every turn around a corner can be a whole new adventure, sometimes rewarding and sometimes not.

In 1991, this exact same scenario cost Los Angeles Police Officer Tina Kerbrat her life. Officer Kerbrat was only 4 months out of the police academy when she and her partner stopped to cite 2 individuals with open alcoholic containers. Officer Kerbrat was shot and killed the minute she stepped out of her police vehicle. She had absolutely no chance to defend herself. The suspect was shot by her partner and died. Officer Kerbrat’s husband was a Los Angeles Firefighter and they had 2 children at the time. A 3-year old daughter and a 6-year old son. Over 4,000 public safety officers attended her memorial. Archbishop Roger Mahony, who presided over the Requiem Mass for Officer Kerbrat, stated that, “We as a community have not done what is necessary to make our streets, our neighborhoods, our homes and our children safe. And until we do this for you,” he said to the officers present, “we must bow our heads in shame and ask for your forgiveness.” 

Rest in peace Officer Kerbrat - The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association was honored to make this your Time of Remembrance.