The San Francisco Police Department is investigating an incident Thursday morning in which a suspect in custody died while handcuffed on a sidewalk in the Marina.
Northern Police Station Capt. Greg McEachern told the San Francisco Examiner that the death occurred during an arrest following a traffic collision.
About 5:30 a.m., a man driving a van rear-ended a car at Lombard Street and Richardson Avenue, police said. That collision propelled the car into a parked vehicle.
The driver of the car tried to speak with the driver of the van, but told police the man was “incoherent” before following the car driver in a threatening manner.
The car driver eventually called police, and two female officers arrived shortly thereafter. The suspect had fled by that time, Officer Carlos Manfredi said.
Officers quickly located a man matching the description of the driver at Lombard and Pierce streets.
The two officers and the man got into an altercation that knocked down a fence, police said. One officer injured her head after being knocked over, while the other was punched several times in the face.
“He threw one officer to the ground and punched another officer several times,” said McEachern.
The man then crossed Pierce and banged on the door of the IHOP restaurant. More officers arrived and managed to handcuff the man in front of a motel. That’s when officers realized the man was having trouble breathing. They turned him over and began administering CPR.
“He was handcuffed,” said McEachern. “They realized that he wasn’t breathing.”
The cause of death remains unknown. The identity of the suspect, a black man, has not been released by police.
Both female officers were hospitalized for their injuries.
A witness who works at a nearby hotel told the Examiner he saw two female police officers following a man on foot on Lombard Street between Scott and Pierce streets.
The officers were reportedly trying to get the man to stop, but he refused.
“He was not driving anywhere, he was walking,” the witness said. “They took something out, they were beating on him.”
The witness then saw a scuffle between the officers and man in front of the IHOP at 2299 Lombard St., and police batons were reportedly used.
Another witness, Willie Gunnari, who lives at Pierce and Lombard streets, told the Examiner he was woken up by screaming female voices. He looked out of a window to see two female officers trying to detain a man who appeared to be at least 6-foot-3 and more than 250 pounds.
“Nothing they did phased this guy at all,” Gunnari said. “They were really whacking the shit out of him. I could hear it in their voice, they were scared for their lives.”
Gunnari said the officers were telling the man to get on the ground, but he wasn’t listening.
“I think he was saying, ‘Stop hitting me,'” Gunnari said.
Eventually six to eight officers were at the scene trying to subdue the man, Gunnari said.