Police Provide Shooting Update at Town Hall
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San Francisco police provided new details Tuesday night about last week's officer-involved shooting in the Castro.
In their first public comments analyzing the Halloween shooting in the Castro - sending both a police officer and the suspect to the hospital with gunshot wounds - San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said the crime appeared to be "a deliberate attempt to shoot two police officers."
At a Castro town hall meeting at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center November 7, where police and city employees outnumbered Castro residents by more than two to one, Scott said police are still interviewing witnesses and analyzing camera footage of the scene.
"Many questions remain," he said.
"We don't have a full assessment tonight," Scott added. Body camera footage from one of the officers is available, the chief said, as well as audio and video evidence from a number of nearby residences.
The crime took place at 12:03 a.m. November 1 at 18th and Diamond streets, according to Captain Valerie Matthews of the major crimes investigation unit.
Two uniformed officers, walking a foot beat assigned to the Castro on Halloween, were flagged down by a citizen and were told of a suspicious vehicle parked nearby, Matthews said. The person said he thought a robbery might be in progress.
The officers approached the vehicle, ordering the driver - the only occupant of the car - to get out. As the driver got out of the car, he began shooting the officer, striking him several times. The second officer returned fire, striking the suspect several times. Both were sent to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
Preliminary evidence indicates that the suspect fired 16 rounds from his weapon and the officer also fired 16 rounds from his department-issued weapon. The suspect's firearm was located at the scene.
The suspect, Sesar Valadez, 32, of Hayward, has been charged with multiple crimes, including two counts of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and for an outstanding arrest warrant out of Alameda County. Because the investigation is ongoing, the names of the officers have not been released.
At the time of his booking, Valadez was in the hospital in life-threatening condition for the gunshot wound he sustained during last Wednesday's incident.
The officer who was shot was also hospitalized but he's in stable condition, according to police spokesman Sergeant Michael Andraychak. Police said that he's a 41-year-old, nine-year veteran of the department.
Police believe that there were at least two other individuals who may have been with the suspect at the time of the shooting. Shortly after the shooting, three individuals flagged down a taxi about one block from the incident, pulling a gun on the driver and hijacking the car. Police believe the three who stole the taxi may be the same people with the suspect during the shooting.
Police examine the scene on Diamond Street between 18th and Market streets where a police officer and suspect were shot in an exchange of gunfire Wednesday, November 1. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn
The vehicle was recovered unoccupied several blocks away in the first block of Oakwood Street. The suspects were described as a man between the ages of 20 and 30 and two women.
Mission district Captain Gaetano Caltagirone said he thought Castro residents "might be worried" about safety. "Those are legitimate concerns," he said.
In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter after the meeting, Caltagirone said that the police "have doubled" the number of beat cops assigned to the Castro. When asked specifically how many beat cops were walking the Castro during the day, he said that there were two all day, seven days a week.
But when pressed about that number, asking if they were together or in different parts of the neighborhood, the captain said there was only one there at a time.
"It is my goal to have two out there," he said. "I've only been on the job a short time. Remember, we have doubled our staffing already."
Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy thanked the police for their rapid response after the shooting. Sheehy said he was the only member of the Board of Supervisors to advocate for larger staffing for the police department during budget hearings last year. Current levels, mandated by law, cap the number of officers at 1,971, a number set in the mid-1990s, when the city had hundreds of thousands fewer residents, Sheehy said.
When the Bay Area Reporter visited Oakwood Street November 1, residents described police swarming the area, searching people's homes for suspects.
Black skid marks were left on the driveway of the building where neighbors say the cab had ended up. A resident of the building declined to speak to the B.A.R.
Jose Vargas, who lives nearby, said he was asleep when, sometime between midnight and 3 a.m., several officers came onto his driveway and, with his permission, searched his roof and "every room of my house."
Vargas said that he later saw that someone had "forced open" the chain link gate to his driveway and at least one person had jumped over his fence into his neighbor's yard. He believes it was one of the suspects, rather than the police. Officers didn't give him any descriptions of the suspects, he said.
Leslie Chin, another neighbor, said Friday that police had found a gun in the area. Chin suspects the weapon had been tucked in somebody's wheel well, otherwise it would have been spotted before. Police also found a cellphone near Vargas' home, she said.
Officer Robert Rueca, a police spokesman, confirmed that police found a firearm on Oakwood Friday, but he said it wasn't clear whether it was connected with the Castro shooting.