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Suspect in officer-involved shooting in Castro identified

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Investigators work the scene of an officer-involved shooting Nov. 1 near the intersection of 18th and Diamond streets in the Castro. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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The suspect in an officer-involved shooting that rocked the Castro District on Nov. 1 was the first to open fire on two officers, San Francisco Police officials said at a town hall hearing held about the incident on Tuesday.

Both the suspect, identified as 32-year-old Hayward resident Sesar Valdez, and a nine-year veteran of the police department assigned to patrol the Castro District on Halloween night, remain hospitalized but are recovering from injuries sustained after an exchange of gunfire near the intersection of 18th and Diamond streets, according to San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.

Captain Valerie Matthews, of SFPD’s Major Crimes Unit, said Valdez and a second officer who was not injured in the altercation each fired sixteen rounds after the two officers found Valdez sitting in a parked Chrysler Sedan and prompted him to exit the vehicle.

The vehicle had been reported stolen in Hayward, Matthews said, adding that while complying with the officers’ demands to exit the car, Valdez opened fire on the officer standing closest to him, “striking him multiple times.”

Another officer opened fire at Valdez after the latter turned the gun on him but missed, said Matthews.

Valdez has been charged with multiple felony offenses, including two counts of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of stolen vehicle and resisting arrest, Matthews said.

Police declined to release the name of the injured officer on Tuesday, citing safety concerns.

According to policy governing officer-involved shootings, police are required to release the identity of officers implicated in such incidents 10 days after the incident occurred — unless disclosure “endangers the safety of witness or another person involved, jeopardizes the successful completion of an investigation, or violates local or state laws in regard to privacy,” Scott said.

“We believe that there was a deliberate intent by the suspect to shoot two officers in the line of duty,” Scott said. “[There are] many unanswered questions as to the motive and who all was involved in this attack. Due to not having these questions answered, we are not able to have a full assessment [of whether] the safety of the officer is at risk.”

Body camera footage of the incident captured by the second officer who shot Valdez was recovered and is being reviewed by police but is currently being withheld from the public, Scott said.

The injured officer did not have his body worn camera activated at the time of the shooting, he said.

Minutes after midnight on Nov. 1, the two officers involved in the shooting were flagged down and led to the car by a civilian “who believed that the car was being broken into,” Matthews said.

Valdez and the officer injured in the ensuing altercation were initially transported to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in critical condition, where they remained on Tuesday.

Matthews said police are still in the process of investigating a carjacking that occurred a block away from the scene of the shooting and minutes after the incident unfolded.

“We believe that there were at least two individuals that may have been with the suspect at the time of the shooting that fled the area,” said Matthews, adding a taxicab driver was flagged down by at least two people who robbed him of his cab at gunpoint.

The cab was found abandoned several blocks away from the scene, at 18th and Oakdale streets, she said.

More than two dozen people attended the hearing and some expressed concerns about safety in regard to a perceived lack of police foot patrols in the neighborhood

“My children don’t know the cops in the Castro because there aren’t any,” said a 10-year resident of the district who declined to give her name.

Scott acknowledged that the number of foot patrols throughout The City has fluctuated in recent years due to budget cuts, but that “two months ago we doubled the size of our foot beats around The City and in this area.”

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