Panhandler nearly killed in officer-involved shooting

A panhandler with a history of trouble with the law was nearly killed Sunday afternoon in Russian Hill when an officer shot him at least twice after the man lunged at the officer with a kitchen knife.

The man, who police said was in his 50s, was panhandling on a median at Greenwich Street and Van Ness Avenue, police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. Around 3:20 p.m., police received a complaint about the man and an officer went to issue him a citation.

The panhandler quickly turned combative soon after the officer approached, resisted the officer’s attempt to arrest him and ran up a hill on Greenwich Street, Mannina said. The officer caught up to the man at Polk Street just as another patrol car arrived.

The man then pulled out what police described as a kitchen knife with a 9-inch blade and “lunged” at the officers, causing them to fire, Mannina said. Witnesses on the residential block said two shots rang out.

Police have cited the man several times in the past, and they know the man as someone with a history of mental problems and substance abuse issues, said Capt. Al Casciato, whose police district covers the area. He added that the man was a matter of feet awayfrom the officer when the shooting happened.

“A lot of witnesses were there at the time,” Casciato said. “There were a lot of people looking out their windows, and from what they told us, it looks like the officer had no other choice.”

Police did not immediately release the names of the three officers involved in the incident.

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