Austin James Vincent (Courtesy SFPD)

Suspect in Embarcadero attack surrenders to authorities on new allegations

Austin James Vincent has landed at the center of a battle over plans to build a homeless shelter

A man accused of attacking a woman outside her Embarcadero condo complex is now being investigated in connection with a series of newly reported crimes, police said Monday.

Austin James Vincent, 25, surrendered himself to authorities at the Hall of Justice Monday morning on an arrest warrant for allegedly assaulting another woman while armed with a knife in February.

Vincent allegedly attacked and threatened to kill the victim as she waited for a ride-hail vehicle with her friends near Fourth and Brannan streets on Feb. 4, according to police.

The victim reached out to police last week after seeing Vincent identified in the news as the suspect in an Aug. 11 attack that was captured on widely shared survelliance footage.

Opponents of a homeless shelter being built next door to the condos where the Embarcadero assault occurred immediately seized on the footage to call for construction to be halted.

Vincent has no local address and is believed to be homeless.

The case also prompted outrage because a San Francisco Superior Court judge initially ordered that Vincent be released from jail ahead of trial.

Judge Christine Van Aken later said she had not seen the video when she authorized his release, and on Friday ordered Vincent be placed on GPS monitoring.

On Friday night, police obtained a warrant for his arrest in connection with the South of Market assault. He was wearing a suit when he walked into court Monday morning to surrender.

Van Aken is expected to decide Tuesday afternoon whether Vincent will again be released ahead of trial.

Outside the courtroom, newly named Deputy Chief Greg McEachern told reporters that the allegations are serious.

“Both of these incidents, the one that was on video and the allegations of the new case that we have from February, show some serious criminal activity that warrant a real strong look at whether or not there is a threat to public safety,” McEachern said.

McEachern said Vincent is under investigation for at least two other crimes in addition to the Embarcadero and South of Market assaults. He described one as similar to the Embarcadero attack and said the other “is not quite as similar but has some things in common.”

“The victims in these cases were approached by Mr. Vincent on the street,” McEachern said. “They fled from him and there was some activity that caused some concern for them for their safety.”

Deputy Public Defender Saleem Belbahri, who is representing Vincent, told reporters that his client had complied with the judge’s orders while out from custody.

“He takes this situation very serious, but he’s also taking his treatment very serious,” Belbahri said. “He’s been doing everything he needs to do to get better and at this point my focus is on Austin and to help him navigate this complex legal system.”

Vincent is expected to be held at County Jail on $100,000 bail at least until his hearing Tuesday afternoon.

“Public safety is paramount for this community, they need to feel safe,” McEachern said. “When we are able take an individual like this into custody, whether or not he has mental health issues or other issues that may have been part of this, we want the community to be safe and in this instance we think the response has afforded them that much.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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