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Close Encounters

June 1, 2017

Close Encounters caught a passing glimpse of a recent news story depicting the sorry state of police cars used for patrol. There’s simply no excuse for this. Those vehicles are needed on a 24-hour, 7-day a week basis because it’s where most of the work gets done by dedicated professionals.

If the City needs money to replace patrol cars then maybe they should initiate an audit of the over-abundance of Non-Profit organizations in San Francisco who are given hundreds of millions of dollars of The City’s money annually.

Years ago we did a cursory review of these agencies and found the duplicity of the services rendered astounding. There are over 4,000 of them in San Francisco! And while so many of them are dedicated to helping those individuals in dire straits addicted to alcohol and drugs their efforts to do so are not working. Non-profits are spending a whole lot of money with nothing to show for it. Simply take a walk through Civic Center - case closed.

So who does deal with the losing battle of trying to change people‘s addictive behavior? Who is left to scoop the wandering problem children from the streets and usher them to a place of refuge until their next drink/fix? The Police Department of course.

The best story written on this subject appeared in the Chronicle in February, 2016, authored by reporters Heather Knight and James Fagan. Heather and James nailed it. They found out through their investigative reporting skills that over $241 MILLION DOLLARS had been spent on dealing with the Homeless Problem in San Francisco and no one could tell them where the money went. And when members of the SF Board of Supervisors asked, no one could tell them either . . .

And nothing’s changed. Let’s face it - anytime something like the homeless issue becomes a “social problem“, it’s automatically now a Police Problem.

So before The City starts cutting back resources on the SFPD, they might want to re-think that strategy and, instead, prioritize their options and weed out what’s not working.

And that’s probably going to be a very long list!


Officer Michael Tursi had been looking for the silver Audi and driver for some time. The owner had been involved in extensive sales of narcotics to the point that Officer Tursi was able to obtain a search warrant based on the suspect’s activities. Mike found the car parked and occupied at Post and Hyde Streets and then notified the rest of the Narcotics crew (Sergeant Michael Moody, Officer Christina Hayes, Officer Michael Montero, Officer David Goff, Officer Brenton Reeder, Officer Matthew Seavey, Officer Carlos Padilla, Officer Denis O‘Connor, Officer David Johnson, and Officer Eduard Ochoa.) A surveillance was set up and just before they were ready to pounce on their prey, the car took off. The officers managed to follow the vehicle across the Bay Bridge and onto the streets of Oakland. The suspect must have anticipated something because he initially drove around in a counter surveillance mode and then finally parked his car and took off on foot. And that’s when the officers dropped their net and soon had him and his backpack in custody. He was probably trying to escape from having to explain what he was doing with over 1 pound of methamphetamine in his possession along with $5600.00 in cash . . .


Officer Matthew Mattei might patrol the waters of the Bay as a member of the SFPD Marine Unit but he still has the keen instincts of a veteran street cop. Those observations came in handy when he responded to back up the officers who were handling an investigation into the brutal stabbing of a Target security guard on the 700 block of Mission Street by a group of 4 juvenile suspects. Matt stayed in the area looking for the felons and found them walking east on Clemintina at 5th Street. Once confronted by Officer Mattei the suspects thought about taking off but Matt convinced them to hug the sidewalk until further patrol units could arrive.


The victim had solicited a woman to accompany him to his south of Market hotel room. She did and then robbed him with the assistance of her boyfriend. The victim called to report the crime and Officer Michael Cunnie, Officer Aaron Villarin, Officer Steven Orengo, and Officer David O’Keeffe responded. The officers located the woman suspect and put cuffs on her and also detained her male accomplice who, as they found out, was currently wanted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for a weapons offense out of Louisiana.

 That should probably be the end of this story except for the fact that there had been some mention of a gun being involved in the initial robbery. That was enough for Officer Cunnie to freeze the motel room and obtain a search warrant. Once obtained the subsequent search of the premises revealed a fully-loaded and ready-to-go semi-automatic pistol with an extended 32 round magazine under the bathroom sink.


We’ve always known Sergeant Rachel Murphy to be one of those exceptional supervisors who really care about their people. She always makes the extra effort by sending us updates as to what her officers are accomplishing at the Tenderloin Task Force (TTF). And this month was no exception.

It all started on Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 12:58 p.m. when 2 Sergeants from TTF spotted an individual running full speed from O’Farrell onto Taylor with his hoodie pulled up over his head in an attempt to avoid being identified. The Sergeants gave chase but they only lasted a block to Ellis Street when they were flagged down by a number of citizens who were holding another suspect down. (It is now 12:59 p.m.). It turned out that the initial subject they were pursuing committed a robbery but so did this newly detained individual on Ellis, just 1 minute later. So they notified Dispatch that their other suspect was last seen running towards Market Street and took over on the new robbery investigation.

Meanwhile, foot beat officers on Market Street tracked down the original robbery suspect the sergeants saw fleeing down Taylor Street and was about to step onto a Muni F Line. He didn’t quite make it.

So far we have 2 separate robberies taking place within a few close blocks and both suspects in custody but then a call for assistance comes over the radio at 1:19 p.m. as 2 other TTF bike patrol officers come across a knife fight on the unit block of Turk Street.

The combatants are extremely aggressive and, at one point, a woman suspect pulls out a large butcher knife and goes after 2 other individuals trying to stab them. She is focused only on injuring others and fails to heed the constant warnings issued by the officers to drop the knife. She finally gave up trying to kill someone and threw the knife at the officers at which time they took her into custody.

In less than ½ hour, the members of TTF were taxed to their limit We asked for the names of those involved but Sergeant Murphy had the right response -- it doesn’t really matter who did what because it was a an “all hands on deck” moment and that’s something that the members of TTF have always been proud of - as they should be!


Sergeant Sean Frost is another regular contributor to this column sending us updates on the crew he works with while overseeing the Bayview District. His latest Captain Commendation starts out, “Experience is invaluable. This is essentially true in law enforcement. When experienced officers go above and beyond what is expected it’s usually with good reason. Such was the case on April 9, 2017.” (How can you stop reading after that . . . ?!!)

Anyway, turns out that Officer Robin Ludovico, Officer Stanley Lee, and Sergeant John Sheehan were informed by a family member that her ex-husband had gone missing, He apparently left their residence on the 1100 block of Rhode Island 2 days earlier not feeling well. The missing subject was not responding to phone calls or other means of contact. The officers responded to his other residence for further investigation and were eventually able to make contact with the individual in question.

 But there was something about the manner in which the subject was answering the officers’ concerns while refusing to open the door to his apartment so the officers pressed on asking a few more details. Suddenly they heard the other party collapse on the floor and he no longer responded to their inquiries. They breached the door and found him unconscious with an inordinate amount of open and empty prescription bottles lying on the floor next to him. An ambulance was summoned and the individual survived this ordeal - barely.


There’s never a need to have someone running around loose who’s wanted for 3 attempted murder cases. The odds are there will be another incident of similar violence - it’s only a matter of time. And that’s why Sergeant Sean Griffin, Officer Patrick Faye and Officer Blake Cunningham made it a point to locate the subject who was wanted on multiple counts of trying to kill people - and they did find him at just about sundown on the 1400 block of Palou. But they also knew that this subject was not going to surrender on his own. And he didn’t. As soon as they identified themselves he took off running - right out of his shoes.

The officers were in better shape and caught up with him but he still wanted to battle. They were soon joined by Officer Claudia Valle, Officer Shyrle Hawes, and Officer Paul Wilgus, their back-up, and the suspect, who was an extreme danger to the community, was in custody.

Never hurts to have a few extra bodies with you, especially when the suspect they were grappling with was trying to reach into his waistband to retrieve the fully-loaded gun he had in his possession!!

Stay safe!