Police seek help in homicide probe
by Seth Hemmelgarn
San Francisco police are asking for the public's help as they investigate the death of a gay city resident who was found injured this weekend in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood.
Bryan Higgins, 31, was found on the ground at about 7 a.m. Sunday, August 10 near the 100 block of Church Street, near Duboce Avenue, according to Albie Esparza, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department. Esparza didn't provide Higgins's name, but it's been published by other media outlets. The exact cause of death isn't clear.
Esparza said based on video surveillance footage, the suspect is a white male in his 20s or 30s wearing a gray hoodie.
Higgins was in "critical condition" at San Francisco General Hospital as of Wednesday morning, August 13, according to Rachael Kagan, a health department spokeswoman, but the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported that Higgins's family wanted to "remove him from life support" Wednesday afternoon. A vigil was planned for the same time.
Higgins's identity wasn't known at first. In a news release issued Monday, August 11, Kagan said San Francisco General Hospital needed the public's help to identify him, and released a photo showing Higgins in a hospital bed with a tube coming out of his mouth.
Esparza said when Higgins was found, "it was believed it was probably just a medical incident." He said Higgins "had injuries," but he didn't know what they were.
"There was no obvious traumatic injury" such as stabbing or gunshot wounds, he said.
However, he said, "video surveillance was brought to the police department that indicated he was the victim of a crime." Police don't have much information, he said, including whether it was a robbery or hate crime.
Kagan said Higgins had been "wearing pants and shoes," but he'd "had no wallet or ID, or any other belongings with him when he arrived at the hospital."
Esparza declined to say who provided the video and didn't share details of what it showed, but he said it "shows it was a criminal act."
He wouldn't say whether people in the neighborhood reported hearing screaming.
"We don't discuss what the witness statements were," he said.
Jerry Deal, 38, a friend of Higgins's, said, "He was the kindest, gentlest, freest spirit I've ever met, and I've been blessed to have amazing friends."
"He was all about love, all about love," Deal said.
According to Higgins's Facebook page, he was also known as Feather Lynn
Deal, who said Higgins was part of the Faerie community, said, "It is frightening to know that whoever did it is still out there. It makes me angry."
He said he went with another friend to see Higgins at San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday night to pay his respects.
Higgins's husband, Brian Hagerty, told the Bay Guardian , "Right now, we are just concerned with his spirit, and making sure everyone has a chance to say goodbye. Too many factors came together in this situation. But the truth is he has left us."
Esparza said once Higgins is declared dead, the case will become a homicide investigation.
"A lot of questions are unanswered," he said.
He said police need witnesses to come forward, and he encouraged businesses in the area to check their video surveillance systems.
Anyone with information in the case may call the police department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444, or text a tip to 847411 and type SFPD, then the message. The incident number is 140 665 807.