Witnessess Disturbed by Beating Incident on Cortland

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There was a violent incident on Cortland Avenue at Bennington on Sunday — right in the heart of Cortlandia. Witnesses say it was an upsetting scene. Neighbor Rick filed this report:

I’m saddened to write this, but our neighborhood witnessed a beating on the corner of Cortland and Bennington Sunday evening at about 5.30 pm.

A group of 4-5 men were in a shouting match that quickly escalated into a fight, which in turn became a beating as 2 of the assailants were kicking one of their downed opponents.

We don’t know what the argument was about (we were halfway up Bennington walking down, and although we could see the action, we couldn’t hear details) but it was a crowded evening and a ton of Bernal neighbors were witness to the encounter. What we did hear was gangster-like posturing, racial slurs, and some seriously antisocial behavior.

One brave neighbor placed herself in between the attackers and the unconscious, bleeding man on the ground. My brother in-law and I honestly believe that if she hadn’t intervened, the attackers would have continued kicking this man and we fear he may have lost his life. (The woman left before the police came because she had her young daughter with her. The poor girl was sitting in front of Progressive Grounds, scared and confused. The woman gave me her details to pass on to the police so she could share her information, but she rightly wanted to get her little girl out of there.)

The attackers fled the scene and unless the woman who placed herself in harm’s way to stop the fight has more details about them, I’m not sure the police had much information to go on. (Most of us were more concerned with the injured man and getting help than with identifying the assailants). The injured man had 2 people with him who seemed to do little to help their comrade and who slinked away once the police arrived. We did ask them who the downed man was and if they knew the guys who beat him, and they said very little but ultimately “no” was the response.

I abhor this sort of base violence and I’m still pretty creeped out by the whole thing. We’ve noticed an escalation in aggressive behavior in Bernal over the past few Sundays (people being accosted by rowdy teenagers sort of thing, even my wife got yelled at by a couple girls in a passing car for not wearing enough Niners gear) but this is by far the worst I’ve witnessed. A few of our neighbors stepped up and that’s great, but this scene has shaken me.

Bernalwood also received this from a nearby merchant:

There was what seems to have been a gang fight at the corner of Bennington and Cortland [Sunday] evening. It was pretty bad and made me think (among other things) that the beat cops are missed these days.

If it was indeed a gang fight, that would mean this incident was non-random. Bernalwood has not yet received any further information from the SFPD’s Ingleside Station. Neighbor Sarah, your vigilant SFPD liaison, has been making enquiries, so we will update you here if more detail becomes available.

In the meantime, an important reminder: Statistically, yes, we are entering crime season. As Bernalwood has previously reported (almost exactly two years ago): the end of Daylight Savings Time means less evening light, which often sparks an uptick in street crime, as goons and hoodlums seek to exploit the early onset of darkness.

Stuff happens. Please be extra-alert this time of year.

Neighbors Furious After Bike Stolen at Gunpoint on Leese Street

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Neighbor Mat had his custom-built bike stolen at gunpoint on Leese St. earlier this week, and his friends and neighbors are spreading the word:

Our singlespeed cross friend, Mat, was robbed at gunpoint one block from my house last night in Bernal Heights on Leese near Park and Mission. The motherfuckers took his bike and his wallet. One asshole pinned him against the car pointing the gun in his face while another one grabbed the bike and his wallet while he was unloading. I happened on the scene minutes after while Mat was giving a report to the police. I had bikes myself to unload. Better be sure I’m not going to be playing by the same rules anymore.

If you see the Gaulzetti bike in the picture attached, please notify Mat and the police immediately.

I talked to two cops in our precinct this morning, and they had little encouraging news. They said that only three teams patrol a huge swath of the city in the Ingleside District–Excelsior, Outer Mission, Bernal, Glen Park. They told me that there are few convictions and barely any jail time, one or two days max, for felony robbery when property is involved. The only sentences are for bodily injury, even if the people are caught on tape. They see the same thieves cycling through the system “hundreds of times” and “the courts just put them right back out on the street.” They said, “policing is a partnership between the community and law enforcement, and San Francisco is not a police-friendly city . . . there’s only so much we can do. . . . . the advice we can give you is don’t be a victim.”

A biased view I’m sure, but I’m lobbying to my landlord and other tenants for cameras and automated flood lights and signage. I’ve contacted Bernal Neighborhood Center to see what community policing goes on.

Neighbor Sarah, your ever-vigilant crime correspondent, shares this recommendation:

One thing that anyone interested in community policing should do is to contact SAFE to set up a neighborhood watch group. You can fill out the form here.

It may not be what immediately comes to mind after an incident like this, but having more trained eyes on the street goes a long way.

PHOTO: Neighbor Mat’s stolen bike

Neighbor Tracks Coolant Trail to Find Car Used in Hit-and-Run

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Neighbor Margo tells the tale of a Bernal neighbor who followed a trail of antifreeze to find the vehicle that hit his parked car:

On Saturday we noticed police activity outside our home, and upon inquiring, learned that a guy from Peralta Avenue, on other side of the hill, heard a hit and run in the middle of the night outside his home — which damaged his car, parked in front of his house.

The perp or perps were gone before he could get outside.

In the morning, he followed a trail of leaking radiator fluid up and over the hill, and with some deductive reasoning, ended up at a bashed-in car, apparently abandoned on our block, 1500 block of Hampshire, just above the gas station.

I thought it was interesting, because he did his own footwork and found the perp’s car — unlike so many of the hit-and-runs recently.

PHOTO: Neighbor Margo

Bail Doubled for Boyfriend as New Evidence Revealed in Mary Atchison Homicide Case

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There was an arraignment hearing yesterday for Jules Sibilio, the boyfriend accused of killing Bernal resident Mary Atchison of Peralta Avenue late last month. At the hearing, Sibilio’s bail was doubled as prosecutors shared new details about a grim discovery made at the crime scene.

Henry K. Lee from the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A San Francisco man pleaded not guilty Thursday to murdering his girlfriend at their Bernal Heights home as his bail was doubled to $2 million.

Jules Sibilio, 48, appeared in San Francisco Superior Court in the death of 42-year-old Mary Atchison, who authorities said died of blunt force trauma.

Assistant District Attorney Sam Totah asked for Sibilio’s bail to be increased from $1 million, saying he was a flight risk.

Police found signs of a struggle and a bag with bloody sheets and towels, suggesting Sibilio tried to cover up the slaying, authorities said.

PHOTO: Top, a tribute to Mary Atchison at Miller-Dogpatch Garden, by Telstar Logistics. Below, Jules Sibilio’s booking photo, Aug. 27, 2014

Medical Examiner’s Report in Alex Nieto Case Details 10+ Gunshot Wounds, Mental Health History, Taser Discharge

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After a long and disgraceful delay, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office finally released its report on the March 21 officer-involved shooting death of Bernal resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill.  Yet in the style of a politician or corporate bigwig who seeks to disclose information while blunting its impact, the medical examiner’s report in the Nieto case was released on Friday — just as San Francisco headed into the low-attention weekend.

So now, on a paying-attention Tuesday, let’s consider what the report says, and what it might tell us about the case of Neighbor Alex Nieto.

If you’re a primary-source kind of person who wants to read the medical examiner’s report in unfiltered form, you can find the full text of the report right here (courtesy of KQED).

If you want the digest, we’ll share the SF Appeal’s version, which highlights both Nieto’s injuries and the section of the report detailing his mental-health history:

The San Francisco medical examiner’s office released a full autopsy report Friday for 28-year-old Alejandro “Alex” Nieto that confirmed he was struck by at least ten bullets when he was fatally shot by police at Bernal Heights Park in March.

Nieto, a San Francisco native who lived on Cortland Avenue in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, was a security guard who attended City College of San Francisco. He had aspirations of being a probation officer.

Nieto was killed on March 21 by San Francisco police officers and the autopsy report indicates that Nieto suffered as many as 15 gunshot wounds from as few as ten bullets.

The Nieto family’s lawyer, civil rights attorney John Burris, said Friday that he has never seen an autopsy report that released so much information about the deceased’s alleged history regarding mental health problems and police contact.

The medical examiner’s office notes numerous details in the autopsy report, such as an incident in 2011 in which Nieto was not taking his medication and received 72-hours of involuntary psychiatric treatment after allegedly “attempting to burn his parents’ house down.”

Burris said he was surprised to see that the medical examiner’s office included medical records from San Francisco General Hospital that, according to the autopsy, “revealed a history of aggressive and bizarre behavior, auditory hallucinations,” as well as Nieto’s noncompliance to prescriptions for two atypical anti-psychotic drugs.

The medical examiner’s office reported traces of cannabinoids in Nieto’s system at his time of death and no trace of anti-psychotic medications.

The other item of note in the report is the assertion that Nieto’s pistol-shaped Taser had been discharged at some point during his confrontation with the SFPD. Here’s how that section reads in the report’s case history:

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Justice for Alex Nieto, the committee formed by Alex’s family and friends in response to his death, has published a lengthy response to the medical examiner’s report that seeks to refute many of its key assertions. Here’s an excerpt:

There is no reason or authority for the Medical Examiner to act as a police detective investigating any possible rationale for anything that happened on Bernal Heights on Friday, March 21. Their job is simply to conduct an examination of the body and notify the public of the medical examination concerning the cause of death. The San Francisco Medical Examiner is not a detective agency; if they were, then they should also be investigating the background and disciplinary records of the police officers who killed Alex Nieto, yet we still do not even have those officers’ names. The San Francisco Medical Examiner is supposed to be unbiased and transparent in safeguarding the public good, yet here they are obviously attempting to besmirch the character of Alex Nieto, even though that is not their job.

The report also claims that Alex brandished his taser, yet it is not the medical examiner’s job to make any determinations on possible brandishing of tasers. In an unbiased manner, they are simply supposed to determine cause of death. Their statement about brandishing obviously shows that they are using the police account as fact, which is not part of the medical examiner’s job.

The long-awaited release of the medical examiner’s report is an important milestone in the Nieto case, because it’s first time in almost six months that new information about the shooting has been officially released. Moreover, the medical examiner’s report plays an important role in the parallel (but opaque) investigations underway to ascertain if officers acted legally when Nieto was shot on March 21.

The investigation process as a whole is slow, cumbersome, secretive, and far from ideal. Unfortunately, it’s also the only process we currently have.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Friends Remember and Mourn Bernal Neighbor Mary Atchison

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Before she died one week ago, Neighbor Mary Atchison was active with the Miller Dogpatch Community Garden in northeast Bernal Heights.  Since then, her garden plot has become a focal point for her many friends to memorialize her life and mourn her passing.

Bernalwood visited Miller-Dogpatch last week, as two of Mary Atchison’s fellow volunteers were on hand to tend the  garden. She was always a ray of sunshine, they said. She had been involved at Miller Dogpatch in its early days, “before urban gardening was a thing.” She was a huge fan of the Giants and the 49ers, and she loved to wear extravagant boas and paint her fingernails in team colors. She didn’t like tomatoes, but she grew lots of them — mostly to give away to friends and colleagues at work.

There was a notebook tucked under a vegetable plant in Mary’s garden where friends have been mourning her. A sample from inside:

Thanks for always being the warmest and kindest person in the office. “Babes Who Bike” will never be the same without you. I always appreciated that you were so passionate about bikes and bike advocacy. Rest well, Mary.

Another:

My forever friend. I don’t know what happened, and I never will. All I know is I love you, my birthday girlfriend. Oh God, No. Love you forever.

One of Mary’s friends at Miller-Dogpatch expressed frustration that it will be a long time until they learn more about what happened. “We won’t really know until the trial,” she said, and that won’t be for quite some time. Mary died from blunt force traumatic injuries, and according to the SF Examiner, her boyfriend, Jules Sibilio, will be in court today for arraignment on homicide charges.

Heather Mayer Fakouri lives in Concord, and she was Mary’s longtime friend. Heather wrote to Bernalwood to share these thoughts:

I am a friend of Mary Atchison. We attended Carondelet High School and San Diego State together. Her death has hit all of us hard. I wrote a piece and was wondering if you would be kind enough to post it, in regards to her death and all those that suffer from domestic violence:

The piercing slap, the pain from the blow…oh the agony I endure! I cry out, but no one listens. I am strong, he loves me! Things will change, he had a bad day. I must go on!

I keep it to myself for the Shame and embarrassment let’s me deny the truth of the reality. I can’t tell too many my anguish. For what would they think? I’ve always endured, why can’t I now? I have too! I will go on.

I am no one’s burden…I suppress the darkness that falls upon me with amusement, laughter and drink. I hide. I must go on.

He loves me! It’s not that bad. Maybe I deserved it. I love him. How could I leave this life we created? I hurt though, inside and out. I mask it with gardening… bringing peace to my planet. I hide it though, with a drink that soothes my thoughts and numbs my pain.

I must go on.

Look Lord, I tried! I kept my love strong, but it wasn’t enough. Enough!! Enough! He went further than I ever thought. This time the pain is deep. Lord my wounds won’t heal this time. Did I do something so wrong this time? Why can’t I mask it one last time..he will change! Am I not able to go on?

Wait something is different. I feel no pain. My heart isn’t bruised. I am at peace. I am with you! Thank you for letting me see the light!

Heather also shared this photo of Mary from their last girls’ night out. That’s Mary, second from the left:

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PHOTOS: Garden memorial, by Telstar Logistics. Girls Night Out, courtesy of Heather Mayer Fakouri

 

Meet Joseph McFadden, the SFPD’s New Top Cop at Ingleside

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Neighbor Sarah, Bernal’s valiant liaison to the San Francisco Police Department, was unable to attend this month’s community meeting at Ingleside Station. In her stead, your Bernalwood editor attended the meeting to take notes as a (vastly inferior) substitute.

But that wasn’t the big news. The big news was the debut appearance by Capt. Joseph McFadden, the brand-new captain at Ingleside. Capt. McFadden used the meeting to introduce himself to a packed room of curious community folk, and my notes that follow summarize his presentation.

SFPD Ingleside Community Meeting
19 Aug, 2014

SFPD Captain Joe McFadden presiding (for the first time)
Captain’s email: joseph.mcfadden@sfgov.org

Mc Fadden is the new captain at Ingleside; he started in early August.

BACKGROUND:
McFadden grew up on 24th Street in the Mission. Third generation San Franciscan. His father was a doctor in Noe Valley, and he’s one of 10 children. He still lives in San Francisco, “about 8 minutes from this station.”  Hobbies: Football, boxing, hiking.

McFadden requested Ingleside because of proximity to his home, his familiarity with the area, and good diversity of people — It’s the “most diverse in the city by far,” he said. “It’s a great melting pot of San Francisco. Being here feels like being back home. I want to stay here for a while.”

SFPD CAREER HISTORY:
(McFadden blasted through this, so I may have missed or munged a few details.)

Started in 1989, trained at Northern Station, then Taraval for his probationary period. Then served at Ingleside from 1991 to 1994, working undercover at Alemany street projects and Sunnydale. Then Violent Crime Suppression Unit. Then went to Mission, and SWAT Team  Became a sergeant, and went to Tenderloin undercover unit. Then domestic violence crime unit for 9 years. Then Internal Affairs for 4 years, including duty as the officer involved shooting coordinator. Then headed up the Film Coordination Unit (which manages street logistics for film crews). Made Lieutenant, then went to Bayview to lead their Station Investigation Unit under Greg Suhr At Bayview, Suhr emphasized community outreach. Then did Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and some Homeland Security. Became a Captain, and lead the Major Crimes Unit. Then went to Special Victims Unit.

POLICING PHILOSOPHY
Most of McFadden’s career has been focused on investigations. He is very investigations-focused. Says he also brought one of the City’s best investigators to Ingleside as his lieutenant.

McFadden says he is “adamant” about working with the community. He’s a big fan of Project SAFE.

Recidivism rate shows that about 5 percent of people commit 80 percent of the crimes. Main focus will be bringing down violent crime and robberies. Actively tracks violent crime arrests, to keep tabs on who will be coming out of jail in a year or two, to familiarize officers with the individual’s MO.

There are lots of young officers in the SFPD now, following a big wave of retirements. Several rookies in Ingleside. McFadden  always reminds officers that they are all on video now — tells them to live their lives like they are always on video. Wants them to always follow through on investigations — especially if they wrote the reports. Very focused on report-writing as a way to encourage ownership of an incident. Ingleside will be a learning station for many of the new officers.

Says that one of the ways he will measure his own success will the length of the list of officers requesting duty at Ingleside.

INGLESIDE CRIME TRENDS
Current high priority is Visitacion Valley robberies. Reaching out to Asian-Pacific Islander associations to educate and train up the neighbors in the area. Establishing Safe Haven programs with local merchants to enable people to find shelter when they feel threatened.

Keeping an eye on auto burglaries, with plans to conduct decoy operaitons, etc. “One thing about criminals, they work an area until they get caught,” he said. “If you arrest one or two people, it will often take down a large percentage of people who are committing the crimes.”  Wants to help establish bloc-by-block neighborhood watches (via Project SAFE), esp via neighborhood organizations.

Keenly interested in Ingleside’s gambling houses. Aware of them, and wants to close them, but it’s hard to do. Coordinating with DA’s office on this. For example, 4837 Mission Street, the gambling hall in the City Business Center. Several gambling halls have closed recently, such as NetStop and Cybertimes. But City Business Center has not closed. Court cases are in progress, but the law is in flux at the moment. This is a citywide issue, but very prevalent in Ingleside. A new hotshot DA is also on the case. This is very high on the priority list.

Other concerns: crime hosues, drug houses, grow houses.

Regarding car break-ins: This is often the very same people, over and over again. Police try to get the guys who are saturating an area. Again, there’s an active effort to review parolees who are returning to the neighborhood, since criminals tend to continue in the same area of crime. If you have surveillance videos that show a crime, make copies and send to SFPD, so officers can familiarize themselves with the suspects. Familiarity with criminals on the street is very powerful, and videos do a lot to help with that.

Now that school is back in session, paying attention to traffic and safe schools, and assigning units to problem areas.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Wants to hear about officers who are rude, as well as officers who are especially good. Knowing when officers do a good job is just as important as knowing when they don’t. Giving recognition for exceptional behavior is a very powerful incentive. It really matters when good behavior gets recognized in a daily station line up — goes a long way toward encouraging more of the same.

If you see a cop on the street, introduce yourself — “Tell them Capt. McFadden told you to do it.” (McFadden said this several times during the meeting) You will see that officer again; policing works best when two-way relationships exist.

At CSI, McFadden learned that one of the biggest trends in contemporary investigation is the importance of the phones people now carry with them: Pictures, video etc., “Video is gigantic.” The video camera’s in ATMs and so on are incredibly important tools to determine where a suspect was, and where they went, etc. Even a bad video can be very useful.

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING…
Evidence from the community has become increasingly important , and it’s important to know how to be a good witness. Wants to train-up the community to be proactive. If you see something, write it down immediately. Note clothing, facial hair, scars, license plates, etc. Specifics, as much as possible Unique features. Note the shoes — criminals can shed a shirt or a jacket, but they can’t change their shoes. Document everything, with as many details as you can get.

When in doubt call 911 — “I’d rather get the call than not get the call.” No response from police? Follow up again. There’s power in numbers. Call your neighbors; have them call 911 too.

QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY

QUESTION: What are your strategies for strengthening relationships between youth and police ?
MCFADDEN: A big emphasis on approachability. McFadden encourages all officers to carry “junior officer stickers” for kids at all times. Hates to hear when officers are rude. Wants officers to be polite. Special focus on kids in Middle School; very important to reach out to teens. Encourages police participation in BBQs, community activities, etc.

QUESTION What If you find a item that was used in a crime?
MCFADDEN: Don’t touch the stuff. Photograph where you found it, in place. Get a wide angle and tight shot (to capture the whole scene, and the specific location.) Wear gloves if you have to touch it, to avoid contamination of evidence. Put it in a bag.

QUESTION: If you could get one thing done at Ingleside, what would it be?
MCFADDEN: I’ve always been better as a strategist than an analyst, but that’s changed a bit as I’ve gotten older. For my station people, I want everyone to return here. For the community, I want everyone to trust in the officers here, and to have lots of people to know me like I’m the mayor of this place. I’m a firm believer in foot-beat officers, and encouraging officers to be outgoing. Wants his people to get to know the community, and the community to know the officers. Wants cops to bond with the community.

PHOTOS: Capt. Joseph McFadden, by Telstar Logistics