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Close Encounters May 2020

May 1, 2020

Obviously there’s a lot happening in The City that would take priority over this column only, when you think about it, there’s really nothing more important than the number of times members of the SFPD put their lives on the line for the benefit of the citizens they serve.

For instance: Sergeant Sergio Lopez runs a plainclothes officer operation out of Ingleside Station consisting of Officer Bryan Zahn, Officer David Lee, Officer Kevin Burke, and Officer Kevin Downs who managed to arrest several individuals armed with guns within a period of only 3 days.

It all started on 2/20/20, when Officer Zahn and Officer Lee were patrolling the Ingleside District when they observed an individual wanted for an armed robbery walking in the area of Onondaga and Cayuga Avenues. The officers approached this subject and fortunately detained him without incident. We mention the fact that this detention was “fortunately” without incident because this individual was carrying a fully-loaded, 9mm semi-automatic weapon in his backpack and he could have engaged the officers in a gun battle. However, due to Officer Zahn and Officer Lee’s training and expertise, the subject was never given that option.

That was gun #1.

The very next day, Sergeant Lopez was on patrol with Officer Kevin Burke in the Heritage Homes and Britton Court public housing development in the Ingleside community for the purpose of crime suppression as they were fully aware of the fact that this neighborhood had experienced homicides, robberies, and aggravated assaults involving weapons. They came across an occupied vehicle with an expired registration. Sergeant Lopez identified the driver as a fugitive from justice with 2 outstanding warrants for his arrest. The officers made contact with this subject and as he stepped from his car they could plainly see he was trying to conceal a satchel strapped to his chest which held a fully-loaded, .357 Berretta weapon ready to go. His attempts failed and he was placed under arrest.

That was gun #2.

Then on 2/22/20, half-way through their watch Officer Kevin Downs and Officer Bryan Zahn were patrolling near the 1600 block of Sunnydale Avenue a neighborhood of questionable character due to the number of robberies, shootings, and other equally dangerous episodes that take place on a routine basis. They located a parked car that was used in a robbery that occurred in Oakland earlier in the day. They also noticed a number of individuals congregating nearby the vehicle in question, one of which had an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest for a robbery that occurred in Oakland. The officers were soon joined by Sgt. Lopez, Officer Kevin Burke and Officer David Lee and, as they approached the group, several ran from the scene. The officers did manage to place a few individuals under arrest after a brief foot chase, including the individual who had an outstanding felony warrant. A check of the parked car that was used in the earlier robbery in Oakland revealed a fully-loaded, Glock .40 caliber pistol with a 22-round, high-capacity magazine within reach of those who knew how to use it.

And that was gun #3.

The following incidents documenting outstanding police work were submitted by Sergeant Angus Chambers, Park Station:

On March 9th at 0430 hours Officers Alexander Ortega and Yosel Segundo were on patrol in the Park District when they came across a not-uncommon sight in San Francisco: a black Tesla stopped in the middle of the street. Officers Ortega and Segundo inspected the vehicle further and saw that the Tesla›s windows were open, and the car appeared ransacked. Realizing that this deserved further investigation, they ran the plate and requested Northern units to conduct a well-being check on the registered owner. This led Officers Jesse O’Keeffe and Zach Price to California Street where they carefully approached the resident’s garage. Imagine their surprise when they saw two masked men inside the garage, waiting in their car to commit a hot-prowl burglary. Officers Nicholas Armanino and Maxim Mackenzie responded to assist as back-up, while Sergeants Yossef Azim and Christopher Costa responded to take command of the scene.

Officers on scene quickly established a perimeter while Officer David Cheng responded from the Central as a Specialist, and quickly coordinated the tactical aspect of the incident. One suspect decided to play it cool by attempting to walk out of the perimeter. Luckily, Officers Alexander Cephus and Malia Dudum were on their “A” game and didn›t fall for the suspect›s ruse. As they attempted to detain the suspect, he fled on foot, but was soon captured after the Officers gave chase. The suspect’s loaded firearm was later recovered close by to where he was apprehended. Numerous Officers from neighboring districts responded and assisted in a systematic search of the area, which lasted late into the morning. Although the accomplice managed to evade capture for now, the primary suspect was arrested and booked on numerous felonies. The teamwork demonstrated by the Officers from Park, Northern and Central was nothing less than outstanding.

On March 19th at 2am FTO Maxim Mackenzie and his recruit, Officer Gabriella Zambrana from Northern Station›s Midnight Watch responded to a 911 call of an auto burglary in progress. This particular call was not just any 852, but one of the many recent catalytic converter thefts that have been rampant across the entire city. Fortunately, the 911 caller was able to provide the call taker with a description of the suspect vehicle and the two male suspects, who apparently decided that stealing catalytic converters was more important than obeying the Mayor›s «Shelter in Place» order. Officers Nicholas Armanino and John “Thor” Crockett responded to assist and quickly located the suspect vehicle which Officer Crockett recognized not only from a recent report he took, but also from the 911 caller›s description as well as from an email sent by Sergeant Greg Skaug from the Burglary Detail. With the assistance of Officers Jonathan Cairo, Gina Debellis, Malia Dudum, Alexander Cephus, Anthony Sharron, Greg Buhagiar, Deniz Akmese and Christopher Cotter, a felony stop was conducted on the vehicle, and both the driver and passenger were taken into custody. Officers recovered a treasure trove of stolen catalytic converters hidden in the trunk of the vehicle which I’m sure the rightful owners will be grateful for.

In the early morning hours of March 25th, FTO Maxim Mackenzie and Officer Gabriella Zambrana were again on patrol when Officer Zambrana spotted a vehicle with dark tinted windows. During the ensuing enforcement stop, the Officers learned that the driver was operating on a suspended license. A subsequent inventory search of the vehicle yielded a bit more than the Officers were expecting: a quantity and variety of narcotics that would make a pharmacist blush. Liquid GHB, Meth, Marijuana, cocaine, MDMA, and too many different pills to list. Not being satisfied to leave the investigation as it was, Officers Mackenzie and Zambrana obtained a search warrant and located additional narcotics and indicia in the suspect’s hotel room that was just across the street. The suspect was booked accordingly and was relieved of his contraband.

“These recent examples are just a small snapshot of the police work that the fine men and women of the SFPD continue to do, despite the ongoing public health crisis. The residents of San Francisco can sleep easy at night knowing that the SFPD is still out in force keeping everyone safe, and likewise, criminals who think San Francisco is currently a soft target should take notice — we are still out on patrol, and we will find those that are here to commit crimes and take advantage of The City.” Sergeant Angus Chambers – Park Station

We couldn’t publish this column without the support of our readers – namely, the officers who do the job.

Nor could we do it without the assistance of Patrol Supervisors who are proud of the work their team members perform. So we definitely want to thank both Sergeant Sergio Lopez and Sergeant Angus Chambers for their invaluable assistance highlighting the outstanding work performed by the uniforms of the SFPD for this month’s edition.

Unfortunately, excluding those 2 sources, we have received very few copies of commendations over the past several weeks thereby extremely limiting our ability to continue on with the ‘Close Encounter’s column. We hope that this is just indicative of the interruptions everyone has had to deal with over the past several weeks, and that’s totally understandable.

Because, as we mentioned at the beginning of this column, “there’s really nothing more important than the number of times members of the SFPD put their lives on the line for the benefit of the citizens they serve.” And people should know about each and every one of them.

Stay safe.