SFPD pin shootings on rival drug dealers

A drug turf war may have spawned the gunfire that tore through San Francisco’s bustling tourist district twice Monday, injuring two men, killing another and sending those in the area running for cover in two separate incidents, police say.

Just two hours after a man was shot in the leg on Market near Fifth Street, two more men were hit by gunfire as they sat in a car outside the popular restaurant Puccini and Pinetti at Ellis and Cyril Magnin streets. One of those men, 20-year-old Charles Rollins, of Pittsburg, died.

Another shooting late Monday night in the Bayview district killed 28-year-old Seu Kuka and brought the year’s homicide total to 60, according to Police Department spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina. The City recorded 46 homicides by the same date in 2006.

The brazen daylight shootings follow a trend of such incidents this year. At least four shootings rocked San Francisco’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods before Monday’s violence.

“We believe that [in] the Tenderloin and the Market Street corridor, there’s currently a struggle over drug turf between local dealers and East Bay drug dealers. As a result, the drug dealers are coming into violent conflict over territory,” Mannina said Tuesday.

Mannina said that, in response, the department had increased the size of its Gang Task Force by 23 officers and increased both uniformed and plainclothes patrols in the area.

Capt. Gary Jimenez, who heads the Tenderloin police station, said that in addition to the added patrols, officers are exercising zero tolerance on traffic infractions. “It’s one way to know who’s in the car and what’s in the car,” he said.

The violence started at about 2 p.m. Monday, when an unidentified man was injured after somebody fired on him from what police described as a silver sedan at Mason and Turk streets, near the popular chess spot at Fifth and Market streets.

In a second incident, Thom McMullen, 51, of San Francisco, said he was sitting at a window table in Puccini and Pinetti just after 4 p.m. when shots rang out again, shattering the front window and sending diners to the floor.

He said the two victims were sitting in a car outside the restaurant at the time of the attack. The driver was killed, Mannina said. The passenger suffered minor injuries.

“It’s the last thing we want to see down here by the tourists, as well as in The City in general,” said Leigh Ann Baughman, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District. But, she said, “We haven’t seen any tangible effect on tourism dollars. I don’t think it’s hit that level yet where it’s affecting people in other cities.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Ballard, said the recently announced increased foot patrols would help prevent violence downtown and citywide. “By the end of the month, there will be more foot patrols in the Tenderloin than in any other district in the city,” he said.

amartin@examiner.com


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