Shooting mars Pride party
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A handful of serious incidents, including a shooting where two gay exhibitors were injured, marred what was largely a peaceful celebration of Pride and recent marriage equality wins this weekend.
At about 6:35 p.m. Sunday, near the end of the Pride festival, "multiple shots were fired" near Larkin and Grove streets, according to a statement from Sergeant Dennis Toomer, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department.
Police said in a summary that two men, listed as ages 18-21, approached a group of people. One suspect "pulled a handgun and fired three times into the crowd," striking two men, ages 42 and 23, in the leg. The suspects fled in an unknown direction, and the victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.
"It is unknown if they were the intended targets," Toomer said of the victims.
Len Broberg said in an interview Monday, July 1 that he had just visited the victims, who are friends of his, 10 minutes before they were shot. He said the men had been working at the Tropicana Hotel booth and are from Los Angeles.
Citing information from one of the victims, Broberg said that after the suspect pulled his gun, "everybody tried to duck. Bullets went flying."
"We were lucky there weren't more people who were hurt," he added.
(Broberg, an out gay SFPD inspector, emphasized that he was speaking as a community member and as someone who attended the Pride festival, not as an investigator in the case.)
One man received a flesh wound and was released Sunday night, Broberg said. The other man, who had also sustained injuries listed as non-life threatening, suffered a shattered femur and was having surgery Monday morning, he said.
Broberg questioned the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's security practices and criticized the group's top officials for not responding to the incident.
People attending the Pride festival – which draws hundreds of thousands every year – aren't searched before entering and don't have to pay to get in, although a $5 donation is suggested.
"I know there were a lot of cops out there," Broberg said, but "you have to do something else to control the crowd."
He suggested charging admission for Pride, an idea dismissed by Pride officials for years as they've sought to keep the festivities free.
"I appreciate the fact that they like to make it open to everybody," Broberg said, but referring to "youngsters," he said, "I was standing at the gates" for Pink Saturday and Pride, and "they're just walking through. If you can't even donate a dollar to the party, then there's something wrong. You're not respecting what we're trying to provide. If you can't support it with a dollar, then you don't need to be there."
Broberg also referred to the 2010 shooting death of Stephen Powell, 19, who was killed around the time that year's Pink Saturday ended. No arrests have been reported in that incident.
Pink Saturday is the Castro street party that happens on the night before the main Pride festival and is organized by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Donations are also suggested, but not required, for that event.
In a Facebook post early Tuesday, July 2, Broberg said, "I am angry that people who have no respect for us or our community's values would bring their violence and thuggish ways and cause pain, harm, and fear. Why do we tolerate this? Why do we allow this to occur? Year after year it continues without being addressed."
Broberg also said Monday he was "very disappointed" in the lack of response from Pride CEO Earl Plante and board President Lisa Williams to the men being shot.
As of late Monday night, Pride still had not issued any statement about the incident, and unlike gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, main stage producer Audrey Joseph, parade manager Marsha Levine, and three Pride board members, Plante had not visited the hospital Sunday, Broberg said.
"Words don't describe how I'm feeling right now," he said. "I'm so angry ... [Plante] couldn't even pick up a phone to find out what was going on."
The day after the Bay Area Reporter contacted Plante and Williams, Plante emailed a statement that said, in part, that the Pride Committee "wants to assure the vendors and their families that they have our support. The ability to hold our annual celebration would not be possible without the hard work of and the important partnership with our vendors. Their safety and welfare remains a priority. Our hearts go out to them for this terrible incident caused by the unidentified perpetrators."
"[W]e are working with SFPD to do all we can to make sure those responsible for the injury and harm to our two vendors are caught," the statement read. "We are unaware if those responsible were members of the LGBT community, participants in our celebration in any way or if they even attended the Pride Celebration. ... At the close of a week where the LGBT community has had such tremendous victories, we are saddened that such a senseless and selfish act has occurred to diminish even one moment of our celebration."
As of Monday, there had been no arrests in the case. Toomer indicated the gunman was last seen running on Larkin. He described the suspect as a black male of unknown age, wearing a black, hooded sweatshirt.
Toomer said last week that police would probably place a surveillance camera in the festival area. Responding to an emailed question Monday about whether footage of the shooting had been captured, Toomer said, "The inspectors always canvass the area for surveillance cameras and witnesses. It is unknown if any were located. Even so, the information would not be released as it might jeopardize the investigation."
Police also reported several other incidents that occurred near the Pink Saturday and Pride events that mostly occurred after official events had ended each night.
According to Toomer, at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, June 29 multiple gunshots were fired on the 1000 block of Market Street, near Jones.
One man, age 20-30, suffered non life-threatening injuries to his head after being hit by shrapnel and was taken to San Francisco General. Police didn't know if he was the intended target, Toomer said.
A man in his 20s was arrested but not booked, so as of Monday police weren't releasing his name.
At 1:25 a.m. Sunday on the 2100 block of Market, near Church Street, a woman, 20, approached another woman, 25, to ask for a date, according to a police summary.
A man in his 20s who was with the second woman told the victim "that they would all three have to date," police said, but the victim refused the offer.
The 25-year-old woman punched the victim. The man accompanying the suspect punched the man who was with the victim "several times in the head," and robbed him of his wallet, money, and identification, police reported.
The male victim, who had lost consciousness before being robbed, was taken to St. Luke's Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Anyone with information in the incidents is encouraged to call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP 411. Place SFPD in subject line.