Before he was killed, Brook Pettyjohn once jumped into the waters near Fisherman’s Wharf to retrieve a football he had given to a young tourist. His clothes were soaked and dripping wet when he pulled himself out and sent the kid off with the football.
“It’s a good story,” said his friend Aaron Tyler. “But you know that football was stolen, right?”
Pettyjohn, 44, lived on the streets near Fisherman’s Wharf for years until a man fatally stabbed him during a fight Wednesday afternoon. A divisive figure in the neighborhood, some remembered him fondly while others described him as being “belligerent and loud.”
Pettyjohn was found on the sidewalk near Jefferson and Taylor streets at around 1:45 p.m. with multiple stab wounds, according to police. He was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and pronounced dead. The Medical Examiner’s Office identified him as the victim.
Witnesses said Pettyjohn was involved in a fight with a man at the entrance to a parking lot outside the Chowder Hut Fresh Grill. The fight brought both men down to the ground. Shortly after, one of the men walked away. Pettyjohn got up, but immediately lay back down.
Robert Martin, an attendant at the parking lot where Pettyjohn was killed, said he didn’t think much of the fight at first.
“We see a lot of drunk people all the time, I thought it was normal, just another day,” Martin said.
But passersby quickly realized something was wrong when they noticed the large amounts of blood pooling around Pettyjohn.
“There was a lot of blood,”Martin said. “You could see how soaked his shirt was. A lot of people started gathering around him trying to help.”
Martin said a woman bent over Pettyjohn trying to help him. Police arrived within five to eight minutes of being called and shut down Taylor Street for hours after arriving, he said.
Based on suspect descriptions provided to dispatchers, police detained Bruce Edward Penn about two blocks away at Taylor and North Point streets.
Penn, a 56-year-old resident of San Francisco known to frequent Fisherman’s Wharf, was arrested on suspicion of murder and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
He is being held at County Jail without bail.
Randall Scott, executive director of Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, said the homicide was a “bizarre” occurrence in an otherwise calm neighborhood. He was nearby when the stabbing happened.
“SFPD and the Fire Department showed up before I even showed up,” said Scott, referring to the San Francisco Police Department. “For me what was nice to see was that the public that was around there was not in danger at all.”
Pettyjohn was known to sleep outside the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel, keeping warm near their open fire pits. Tyler said he was from Santa Cruz and was the son of a preacher.
Christopher Daniel, a manager at Ripley’s Believe it or Not, remembered Pettyjohn as a good person despite his regular drinking.
“I’ve accepted that he was a person with problems, but still good deep down,” Daniel said.
Other workers in the area were quick to criticise Pettyjohn.
Carlo Chavez, who works at a crab stand on the wharf, recalled a time he physically attacked Pettyjohn with a stick.
“He was always coming in here and stealing our beers,” Chavez said. “He wasn’t a good man.”
Daniel, who spoke with Pettyjohn the day he died, remembered that “he had a split lip from a fight” two days prior.
“Brook can get pretty hammered and start fights,” said Taylor, who said Pettyjohn frequently used racial expletives.
The homicide is the first since February and the sixth killing of 2019.
On Feb. 18, the body of George Randall Saldivar, 23, was found floating in the water near Pier 39. Two people have since been charged with murder for allegedly torturing him earlier in the month at a residential hotel in the Mid-Market area.
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Michael Barba contributed to this report.