On a recent Friday afternoon in downtown San Francisco, a homeless man died on a bustling street corner while onlookers did nothing but stand by idly or film the incident with their cellphones.
“I was very bothered by what I saw,” Police Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco said during last week’s Police Commission hearing.
In response to the incident, Mazzucco praised the first responders — including the police officer who performed chest compressions on the man until paramedics and firefighters took his place — but he railed against the many witnesses who did nothing to help the man.
“Our officers do things for people that nobody appreciates,” Mazzucco said. “They risk themselves to exposure to many different things, and went about their business to try to save this homeless person’s life while thousands of people walked by.”
The incident unfolded about 12:30 p.m. May 10, when Mazzucco was crossing Third and Market streets. He said he saw a veteran police officer up ahead of him standing over someone. Mazzucco rushed toward the officer, coming upon what he described as a gruesome scene.
“It was a homeless resident whose body gave out,” Mazzucco said. “It was a bloody scene. Very unusual. There was blood coming out of his mouth, his nose.”
The man died at the scene.
Mazzucco said the officer was disturbed by the public’s reaction — or lack thereof.
“One of the officers started screaming, ‘Did anybody dial 911?,” Mazzucco said. “Nobody called.”
Rather than using their cellphones to call for help, some used them to record the incident.
“I guess it was kind of interesting to them,” Mazzucco said.
The only person who reported the incident was a Department of Public Works employee tasked with cleaning the area. She flagged down an officer and told him the man was vomiting blood.
The employee has been invited to a future Police Commission hearing to receive a commendation for that effort.