Man Charged After Castro Crash

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Wednesday January 24, 2018
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A San Francisco man is facing assault with a deadly weapon and numerous other charges after he allegedly drove onto a busy sidewalk Saturday afternoon in the city's gay Castro district.

Prosecutors announced Tuesday afternoon that Kenneth Joseph Rotter, 70, is being charged with seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism, reckless driving, and driving under the influence in the incident.

Rotter, who's being held without bond in County Jail #2, was expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon, after the Bay Area Reporter's press time.

No pedestrians were hit and no other vehicles were damaged in the incident, in which the window of a deli was broken.

The incident started at about 3:12 p.m. Saturday, as city dispatchers received 911 calls about someone "driving recklessly - including on the sidewalk - on the 400 block of Castro Street," police Sergeant Michael Andraychak said in a news release.

Responding officers saw the vehicle, a purple Dodge minivan, driving west on 18th Street toward Sanchez Street. They stopped and detained the driver, who was soon identified as Rotter.

The preliminary investigation showed that Rotter had driven his van onto the sidewalk onto the west side of Castro Street, "hitting multiple parking meters and sidewalk trees," said Andraychak. He then stopped, backed into the front of Rossi's Delicatessen, and then drove back into the road and south down to 18th Street, according to Andraychak and images posted to Facebook.

In a video that a witness posted to Facebook, the van is stopped on the sidewalk near the deli before it goes into reverse, resulting in a loud crashing sound. Someone standing near the van opens the driver's side door before the van proceeds on the sidewalk down Castro, with onlookers screaming for people to get out of the way. The driver appears to honk the horn and the left turn signal flashes and brakes appear to be activated at least once.

Chikara Abe, who took the video, told the B.A.R. in a Facebook exchange that he didn't hear the van's driver say anything during the incident.

Andraychak said, "The subject drove around the block through intersections posted with arterial stop signs and at times drove on the wrong side of the roadway until he was stopped and detained."

Rotter, who reported non-life threatening injuries, is a transient and had been living in the van with his dog. He told authorities that he'd been having trouble with the brakes, according to Andraychak, who added that the van's been impounded and would be "subject to an inspection to determine if there were any mechanical defects that may have contributed to the incident."

Cynthia Dughman, one of Rossi's owners, wasn't at the deli at the time of Saturday's incident, but she told the B.A.R. that the shop's window was broken.

Rotter, whose booking photo hasn't been released, declined an interview request from the B.A.R. His dog is in the custody of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, according to Andraychak.

Rotter was booked into jail early Sunday morning on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving, hit-and-run driving, vandalism more than $400, three counts of failure to stop before a crosswalk, failure to drive on the right, unsafe condition of vehicle, and failure to provide proof of financial responsibility, sheriff's department records said.

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