The suspect got away around 10 p.m. Wednesday by sliding down a hillside where police had been monitoring him since a home burglary was interrupted nearby a day earlier, police spokesman Sgt. Daryl Fong said.
The burglary was reported shortly before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 1700 block of Kearny Street near Lombard Street, police said.
The suspect fled the home and headed toward a cliff that goes down to Chestnut and Montgomery streets.
Instead of chasing the suspect over the cliff, which contains thick shrubbery and steep drops to the street below, officers set up a perimeter and began waiting for him to come out, police said.
But despite the efforts of crisis negotiators, U.S. Park Police, a California Highway Patrol helicopter and firefighters with bright floodlights, the suspect refused to come out.
After more attempts on Wednesday to get the suspect to surrender, police decided to pull back from the hillside and conduct patrols throughout the night, police spokesman Sgt. Daryl Fong said.
"We believe the risks associated with apprehending or contacting him far outweighed the benefits," Fong said.
Then, at about 10 p.m., a neighbor at the bottom of the hill heard noises coming from the hillside and saw a man sliding down the hill toward an opening in a chain-link fence at the bottom, Fong said.
The suspect then peered out of the hole in the fence, went through it and walked away, Fong said. He was last seen walking north on Montgomery Street.
The neighbor called police, who responded but were unable to find him.
Investigators are still trying to identify the suspect. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.