Noe Valley Voice December-January 1999-2000

Police Beat: Witnesses Foil Purse-snatching

By Officer Lois Perillo

With the help of witnesses, police arrested a 32-year-old man who robbed a woman of her purse while she was inside Walgreen's. Here's how it went down:

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, at about 6 p.m., a 50-year-old woman was at the drugstore's front cash register paying for her purchases when a man came up behind her, grabbed her purse, and pushed her into the sales counter. With the woman on his heels, the suspect ran from the store to a vehicle parked on Jersey Street. Her yelling got the attention of her 37-year-old nephew who was waiting for her outside. It also alerted another man, 29, who tackled the suspect, causing him to toss away the woman's purse.

Meanwhile, the suspect's waiting car approached and he yelled to the occupants: "Run him over." When the witness saw two people and a large dog in the car, he released the suspect, who got into the vehicle and drove away.

Lieutenant John Carlin responded to the call from Walgreen's and broadcast a suspect and vehicle description. Officers Mario Molina and Andy Castro spotted the vehicle traveling east on Cesar Chavez at Bryant Street. After stopping the vehicle, the police took all witnesses and the targeted woman to the scene, where they identified the suspect, James Hudson. The other two adults in the car were interviewed and released. Hudson was booked on robbery charges, and remains in custody pending his court date.

Burglar Falls Through Skylight

Two nights before, two men were caught while fleeing from a business they had apparently burglarized, but only after one of them crashed through the post office skylight in a failed attempt to outmaneuver police.

When Officers Angel Lozano and Malcom Anderson headed to Hahn's Hibachi at 4:17 a.m. on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 11, they were responding to a call made by an alarm company. Upon arriving at the Castro Street restaurant, the officers saw the front door open and heard noises coming from inside. They then noticed two male suspects within the business. More officers were requested to "set up a perimeter," police parlance for watching all possible escape routes. A police search dog and handler were also called.

Officer Eugene Yoshii and his dog Copper were the first to enter the restaurant. But the suspects quickly fled out the rear, up some steps, and over nearby building roofs. One suspect, 39-year-old Ro Matiatini of Portland, Ore., was arrested after he exited a gate on the 4000 block of 24th Street. But the second suspect's capture was quite dramatic.

The 34-year-old man, Nemani Sugu-turaga of East Palo Alto, apparently ran over the post office roof and onto the skylight, which gave way and dropped Suguturaga into the Noe Valley Post Office at about 4:29 a.m., way before business hours. (The Postal Inspector was immediately called to secure the building.)

Suguturaga was treated for cuts at San Francisco General Hospital and later booked on burglary and burglary tool possession. He was released Wednesday, Oct. 13, on his promise to appear in court. His alleged partner in crime, Matiatini, was booked on the same charges and is in custody pending his court date.

Run, But You Can't Hide

In another incident, a burglar who pushed down an 86-year-old Noe Valley resident was followed by a female witness, detained by two off-duty sheriffs, and later arrested by police.

When the elder man, accompanied by a 44-year-old woman, entered the door to his Castro Street home at about 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18, they heard suspicious sounds coming from inside the house. Both retreated to call police.

Meanwhile, the witnesses saw two suspects, a man and a woman, exit the building. While the woman witness remained on the line with police dispatch, the elder man confronted the male suspect. The witnesses said the suspect then pushed the older man to the ground and ran south on Castro to 24th Street. The female witness followed the male suspect southbound to Noe, then east on 25th Street, where two off-duty San Francisco deputy sheriffs, who had witnessed the earlier assault, intervened and detained the suspect.

When Officers Dianne McKevitt and Maria Oropeza arrived, they took 26-year-old Brent Garrard into custody. The elder man identified Garrard, and police found items belonging to the elder man in Garrard's possession. The California Street resident was booked on two felonies, burglary and receiving stolen property. The district attorney's office added another felony count of aggravated assault. Garrard is currently at county jail awaiting his court date.

Three Strikes and...

A 26-year-old man who had been arrested in three auto burglaries within Noe Valley over the past three years was convicted of his most recent crime and sent to state prison for 16 months.

Alvin Azama, a resident of 41st Avenue, was originally convicted of a 1996 auto burglary at Diamond and Clipper. He received three years probation. Then in May 1997, the probation was revoked upon his arrest for another auto burglary, this time on the 900 block of Sanchez. When Azama was arrested in February 1998 for a Vicksburg and Elizabeth Street burglary, he was released pending trial. But when he failed to appear in court, the judge issued a $10,000 bench warrant. Azama evaded police until January 1999, at which time he was arrested, pled guilty, and sent to prison.

In a recent sentencing for another burglary case, 33-year-old Robert Erickson got eight years in state prison for burglarizing an apartment on the 900 block of Guerrero Street.

A 33-year-old man accused of burglarizing a flat on the 1000 block of Dolores Street in August 1999 remains in custody pending his January 2000 trial.

No October Domestic Violence Cases

A 41-year-old resident of the 800 block of Noe, who was charged with battering his wife in a March 1999 case, recently pled guilty to malicious mischief and got three years' probation.

Although I found no reported cases of domestic violence within my beat during the month of October, I acknowledge that some cases never make it into a police report. And experience tells me that this is the time of year when domestic violence may rear its ugly head. While the holidays bring joy, they also bring stress. So, I'm reprinting the list of resources I included in my October column.

Some Local Resources

W.O.M.A.N. Inc. (24-hour hotline) 864-4722

S.F. Neighborhood Legal Assistance
(for restraining Orders) 982-1300

Volunteer Legal Service (Bar Assn.) 989-1616

Community United Against Violence
(same-sex domestic violence) 333-4357

S.F. Women Against Rape 647-7273

Rape Treatment Center 821-3222

The Talk Line (children) 441-KIDS

Children Trauma Project 206-5323

Men Overcoming Violence/ MOVE
(offenders) 777-4496

ManAlive (offenders) 979-5933

SFPD Domestic Violence Response Unit
850 Bryant St. #561
(criminal complaint follow-up) 553-9225

Also, here are a few reminders to thwart thieves:

* Take your presents and other belongings out of your vehicle.

* Use light and radio timers at home.

* Let your trusted neighbors know your schedule.

* Use motion/heat-sensitive lighting outside your home.

* Have someone stay at or visit your home while you are away.

* Mark any items a thief might find appealing (TV, camera, laptops, bikes, tools) with your California driver's license number.

* Call SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone) at 553-1984 for a free security survey and to start a neighborhood watch group.

* Give to your favorite charity, but NOT to Jim the Con Man, known for soliciting funds for his "daughter's soccer team" while masquerading as your local block captain. "Jim" -- real name Joseph Lawrence -- should be in jail for two felony burglary charges by the time you read this, thanks to Inspector Mark Sullivan and all of you who called me!

As the winter solstice approaches and the days shorten, have a wonderful holiday, and let's continue to watch out for one another. I'll see you on patrol.

San Francisco Police Officer Lois Perillo covers her Noe Valley beat-- from Valencia to Grand View and 21st to Cesar Chavez -- on foot and on bicycle. If you would like to discuss a crime or safety problem, call her at 558-5404, the community policing line at Mission Station.