Ex-convict was hero at S.F. hit-and-run scene

The good Samaritan who was pinned under a car after he tried to stop an alleged hit-and-run driver from leaving a crash scene Sunday was released from state prison just six months ago after a 12-year armed robbery stint.

Sitting in his friend Victoria Shaller’s San Francisco apartment Tuesday, Steve Junker, asoft-spoken 45-year-old, recounted being slowly crushed by Giorgos Vassiliades’ Ford Focus.

“It starts getting heavier and heavier and you can’t do nothing about it. I was pinned under that damned car on my hip and my face,” Junker said. “I heard people saying, ‘Get this thing off of him,’ and they did.” Junker suffered two pelvic fractures and facial abrasions.

Junker was trying to stop Vassiliades from leaving the intersection of Market and Octavia streets, where he had allegedly just hit a bicyclist. The 36-year-old from Emeryville initially stopped after hitting the unidentified cyclist while making an illegal right turn from Market Street onto southbound U.S. Highway 101, police reported.

Junker and Shaller, 42, were returning to The City at about 11 p.m. after visiting some friends in San Mateo on Sunday. They were exiting Highway 101 at Octavia Street when they saw the collision, Junker said.

“I walked over to the car. He [the driver] had his leg halfway out the car. I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come over and see this guy you hit. You can’t just split,’” Junker said.

Junker said he grabbed the man’s shirt collar but the man held fast to the steering wheel and stepped on the gas. “I remember the tires screeching. He wasn’t sticking around,” he said. Junker and his attorney, Jason Lundberg, said it appeared Vassiliades accelerated onto the curb and flipped the car onto its side.

“That was kind of rude, I thought,” Junker said with a smile.

“All you saw was his legs sticking out,” Shaller said.

“It felt like being underwater,” Junker said. “It was out of my hands. There was nothing I could do.” Shaller rushed to the overturned car and began trying to lift it while shouting to witnesses to come help. Four or five people helped her roll the car off, she said.

“And the son of a b—- took off again. I looked up and said, ‘Get that dude,’” Junker said. One witness followed Vassiliades over the Bay Bridge to Emeryville, where he was arrested.

Junker said he reacted on instinct when he jumped out of Shaller’s car to assist the bicyclist. “Certain things are right and certain things are wrong. That’s just wrong.”

The ex-convict said he went to prison for “robbing other criminals, not mom-and-pops.”

Ashwin Ladva, another attorney representing Junker, said Junker plans to sue Vassiliades for medical costs and punitive damages. Junker spent about six hours in the hospital, he said, and faces many more doctor’s appointments.

amartin@examiner.com

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