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Close Encounters

December 1, 2016

It’s the end of the year and we still have a number of police reports describing incidents involving outstanding police work that we didn’t have time to mention in the earlier columns. So here goes . . .

It’s one in the morning when Dispatch receives a call of an individual who is currently on parole with an outstanding felony warrant issued for his arrest and who is also violating a stay-away order on the 600 block of Larch Way. Officer Brendan Williams and Officer Nicole Gilliam respond and are immediately confronted with an extremely agitated male suspect who wants to fight. And he does. This subject is of very, very large stature and it takes not just Officer Williams and Officer Gilliam’s efforts but also those of Officer Michael Bushnell and Officer Joseph Porta to finally get this individual in custody. The officers had no way of knowing that during the entire time they were attempting to control the resisting suspect, he had a fully-loaded, .380 semi-automatic weapon in his back pocket.

There’s a reason the Civil Service Exam Unit doesn’t list one of the job tasks to become a San Francisco Police Officer as having to fight with a convicted felon with a violent history who is also under the influence of methamphetamine and carrying a gun. Probably wouldn’t get many takers .

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Nor would people apply for a job where you have to respond to a call of “shots fired” more often than not. And that’s exactly what happened in the Bayview on Ardath Court. Officer Tiffany Hang and Officer Lauro Baca came up for that one and located a suspect who just happened to match the outstanding description put out by Dispatch. The suspect, a notorious gang member, was detained and turned out he was armed with a loaded, .45 caliber handgun.


And, having to track down a gang member/heroin dealer who is always known to be carrying a gun probably wouldn’t be a real selling point either for potential candidates . . . But it’s what Officer Eduard Ochoa does every day. Officer Ochoa received information that a subject he was looking for just wasn’t dealing narcotics from his car but was doing so while parked in front of an elementary school at Oakdale and Mendell Street in the Bayview. You don’t have to read a lot of crime novels to realize that this is a very bad mix. Dealers and their addicts are the least stable individuals in society and it doesn’t take much to set either one of them off to the point where guns come out and bullets, that never hit their intended target, start flying. This is especially dangerous when there’s a grammar school, with way too many innocent victims, nearby.

After an intense investigation, Officer Ochoa located the subject in question in a car parked right next to the school. As Officer Ochoa approached the vehicle he saw the suspect quickly reach under his seat at which time he was detained at gunpoint. Turned out the dealer was reaching for a fully-loaded, Glock, 9mm semi-automatic handgun with a threaded barrel (making it an assault weapon). And, what could have really made matters worse, was that the suspect had a 50-round, high-capacity drum magazine - while sitting right next to a school full of young children. 

And the very next day Officer Eduard Ochoa was working with Officer Louis Hargreaves when they were assigned to pay special attention to the area of LaSalle Avenue and Whitfield Court since there was a recent shooting that had just taken place at that location between rival gang members and that there was a very good possibility that an act of retaliation might occur. And, as it turned out, it’s a good thing they did cover that particular neighborhood . . . Because as soon as they started patrolling the neighborhood in question they located a car driving by that had committed a minor traffic violation. After making contact with the driver a subsequent investigation revealed that he was the illegal owner of a fully-loaded, Glock 9mm semi-automatic with a 30-round high-capacity magazine which earned him a number of criminal charges he can now deal with. But that one arrest probably saved several lives . . .


The individual who robbed a bank with a gun at 19th Avenue and Geary Boulevard was immediately tracked down by Officer Michael Wright, Officer Bryan Lujan, and Officer John Ruggerio within minutes of the crime and detained a few blocks away. He was still carrying the blue pillow case in which he had stuffed the $16,000.00 taken from the bank.


The Civic Center BART station is not one of the safer stops along the track. And it turned out, unfortunately, to live up to it’s reputation when a person waiting for a train was stabbed multiple times to the point of barely surviving the ambulance ride to the hospital emergency room. The report filed with the BART police was forwarded to the Tenderloin Station along with photos of the suspects involved in the aggravated assault. Officer David Vizcay, Officer Daniel Casey, and Officer Marco Zamudio received a copy and immediately recognized the identity of those involved because of their numerous contacts with the criminal element in the neighborhood. They immediately notified the BART investigating officers with their information.

A few days later, Officer Casey and Officer Zamudio were in court at the Hall of Justice on an unrelated matter when they saw one of the suspects who was now wanted for the attempted murder of the innocent victim and so they scooped him up and escorted him to a very short elevator ride to County Jail.


Some people just never learn. Take, for example, the 24-year old out on parole for robbery who immediately ran from Officer Erick Solares and Officer Carlos Mustafich as they approached to make contact with him as they had extremely reliable information that he was carrying a gun and continuing in his illegal endeavors. The chase lasted several blocks and over 2 fences until the officers had him cornered. Turned out the info was good and our parolee was, once again, jailed for carrying a loaded .40 caliber, semi-automatic weapon with a 22 round, high-capacity magazine!


There’s so much good work the men and women of this Department are doing it’s amazing. And, every once in a while, we come across a story that really sums up what the job is all about:

Officer Mark Fraize and Officer Timothy Neves responded to the Marina Safeway on a robbery call. Turns out the suspect snatched the purse of a woman who could ill-afford the loss. Mark and Tim obtained as much information as they could from the victim and then proceeded to obtain a description of the suspect and the car he used to escape from the eyewitnesses. In addition, the officers reviewed the surveillance tapes taken outside the store so they’d have the best chance possible of identifying the thief.

The officers then conducted a methodical search of the neighborhood with the help of Officer Janice Frost and Officer Kenneth Bates. Fortunately, thanks to the video they reviewed of the suspect, they found him at a nearby ATM machine trying to use the victim’s credit card. Once the suspect saw the officers he took off running. But that didn’t last long and he was soon in custody.

Officer Frost and Officer Bates then managed to locate the suspect’s vehicle and, after further investigation, they retrieved all of the victim’s property that was taken including $800.00 in cash. The victim was a person of modest means and the money was to be used to help towards paying the family’s rent.

Sergeant Nelson Artiga prepared a Commendation for all of the officers involved citing, “The efforts of Officers Fraize, Neves, Frost, and Bates resulted in the apprehension of a career criminal and the return of an innocent victim’s property. I recommend that they be commended for their actions.” 

The job of an SFPD Officer requires a person of principle, courage and selflessness - but it’s mostly a job for people who care.

Stay safe.