The man who fatally shot himself early Tuesday in front of police officers on Treasure Island had been the prime suspect in a brutal Thanksgiving Day armed robbery and a separate car theft in Benicia, police said.
Duncan Phillips, whose Facebook page indicated that he had recently lived in Chico, was wanted in connection with the pistol-whipping and robbery of a 52-year-old woman, Benicia Police Department Lt. Frank Hartig said.
The suspect fled in a previously stolen red Ford Taurus with a woman who knows the victim, Hartig said.
That woman reportedly might have been Phillips’ girlfriend.
Police were called about the Taurus shortly after the assault was reported, Hartig said. The woman who reported the vehicle theft is said to also know the 52-year-old assault victim.
The license plate on the white Ford Taurus that Phillips was driving during the police chase, which began about 11 p.m. Monday, matched that of the red Taurus that had been stolen in Benicia, Hartig said. Investigators determined the car had been painted white after it was stolen, San Francisco Police Department Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
The car chase that preceded Phillips’ death early Tuesday began when the 29-year-old’s father called San Francisco police late Monday night to report that his son was armed with a gun, suicidal and driving the stolen Taurus, according to police.
Soon after, officers spotted the sedan near the 800 block of Bush Street and began following it, Andraychak said.
Phillips reportedly reacted by running red lights toward the Bay Bridge, leading to a pursuit by police during which Phillips fired at least one shot from the vehicle.
It wasn’t clear whether the shot was fired at officers, Andraychak said. Traffic on the bridge was described as “medium” at the time of the shooting, he said.
Phillips eventually bailed from his car on Treasure Island. He then showed police a gun and threatened to shoot himself, but held off until after crisis negotiators spent about five hours trying to dissuade him from doing so, Andraychak said.
CBS San Francisco (Ch. 5) captured live footage of Phillips holding a handgun to his head only feet from where officers were standing behind a patrol car.
Phillips’ life had apparently been spiraling out of control long before the Treasure Island incident. He had been arrested on drug charges in Yolo County in June, and also was recently fired as property manager of Casa Alegre Apartments in Chico over inappropriate conduct and theft.
“Police came by here three days ago … he was suspected of driving a stolen car with his girlfriend,” said Jack Yerman, the owner of the apartment complex, adding that he knows Phillips’ mother, a teacher in Chico.
Yerman said Phillips had moved to Chico from San Francisco, where he had worked with his father, likely hoping for a new start.
“He apparently still had too many demons,” Yerman said, noting that Phillips otherwise had “nice qualities.”
Yerman did not know if Phillips had drug problems, but said his girlfriend might have used methamphetamine.
Family and friends on Facebook described the man they knew as loving and compassionate.
“What a tragedy,” Yerman said.