Castro District residents were startled early Wednesday morning by a barrage of gunfire that erupted just after midnight and sent a San Francisco police officer and another man to the hospital.
The officer, a nine-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, was shot and injured while investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle and as of Wednesday afternoon was in critical but stable condition, SFPD spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan said.
The suspect, identified only as a man, was reported to be in life-threatening condition, Gatpandan said. Police did not release the officer’s or the suspect’s names Wednesday.
At 12:03 a.m., officers on foot patrol and assigned in the Castro on Halloween night were flagged down by a citizen due to a purported suspicious vehicle in the area of 18th and Diamond streets.
When the officers approached the vehicle to investigate, “there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and at least one officer,” Gatpandan said.
One officer, a 41-year-old man who is assigned to the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to a hospital. The suspect was also taken to a hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound.
Both the officer and suspect underwent surgery Wednesday.
Gatpandan confirmed that the suspicious vehicle, a gray Chrysler sedan parked about half a block up from the intersection, was reported stolen, and that a firearm believed to belong to the suspect, was recovered from the scene.
Police are also investigating a possible link between the shooting and carjacking of a taxi that occurred shortly after the shooting, said Gatpandan.
Wednesday’s shooting was the second incident within two weeks in which a SFPD officer was critically injured in the line of duty. On Oct. 18, Officer Elia Lewin-Tankel was on his bicycle when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver as officers were investigating a possible firearm violation on Turk Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. The suspect, 50-year-old Maurquise Johnson, has been charged with attempted murder and various other charges.
“It’s a reminder to us that every time the men and women of the SFPD or any law enforcement officer puts on a uniform, their life is at risk, regardless of what unit they are assigned to,” Gatpandan said Wednesday.
The intersection of 18th and Diamond streets remained cordoned off with police tape into the late morning hours Wednesday, and about a dozen officers could be seen combing the block of Diamond Street between 18th and Market streets for evidence.
Several businesses, including a post office located near the intersection of 18th and Diamond streets, remained closed.
“I guess the office is closed today,” said one man who works near the intersection and was turned away by police.
Throughout the morning, officers escorted residents of the block to and from their homes.
Joan Landes, 17, lives at 18th and Diamond streets and was awakened around midnight by what she thought were firecrackers.
“I heard a man yelling, then I heard a bunch of police [sirens] and ambulances,” Landes, who grew up in the neighborhood, told the San Francisco Examiner.
She added there was a party in the Castro on Halloween night, but said the streets near the shooting were relatively quiet.
Mark Osdergard also lives across the street from the scene of the incident and said that he too heard a man yelling about 15 minutes before the shooting occurred.
“I was talking to my son on the phone and heard yelling at about 11:45 p.m.,” Osdergard said. “It had a weird tinge to it. I thought it sounded strange.”
Not long after, Osdergard said he heard a barrage of gunshots, “about 10 to 15,” fired on his block.
Another resident in the area of 18th and Diamond streets, Annie Tran, said she didn’t hear the shooting and was surprised to see such a strong police presence in her neighborhood in the morning.
“I opened my door in the morning and saw so many people, so much police,” Tran told the Examiner.
At the time of Wednesday’s shooting, Castro Street had drawn a number of revelers for a Halloween celebration. The official annual event held there on Halloween was shut down following shootings in 2006.
Max Nackpil said she and several friends were eating pizza at Nizario’s Pizza near 18th and Castro streets at midnight when they witnessed several officers running toward the intersection of 18th and Diamond streets.
“We were there on the corner and there were cops on the other corner. I heard them coming up and then it was like, ‘Officer down, officer down,’” said Nackpil, who added that she did not hear the gunshots. “Then I saw a lot of police cars coming in.”
Nackpil said she initially thought the officers were responding to an incident involving Halloween revelers.
“I was paranoid,” she said. “[I thought], ‘Not another thing in the Castro — don’t fuck up Halloween in the Castro.’”
Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s Tip Line at 415-575-4444.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.