SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An arrest has been made in the San Francisco stabbing death of 43-year-old tech executive Bob Lee, police announced Thursday.
Nima Momeni, 38, has been booked into San Francisco County Jail on a murder charge, according to records. San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said the charge is murder with a special allegation enhancement alleging murder was committed with a knife.
Sources say Thursday morning, police were seen at Momeni's sister's home in San Francisco's Millennium Tower, just four blocks from where Lee was found with stab wounds last week.
Momeni is said to be a tech entrepreneur himself, someone who lived and worked in Emeryville.
DA Jenkins and San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said in a press conference Thursday that evidence shows Momeni knew Lee and it was not a random street crime. The suspect is being accused of stabbing Lee, the founder of Cash App and the Chief Product Officer of MobileCoin, in the early morning hours of April 4 in the Rincon Hill neighborhood in San Francisco.
Who's Nima Momeni?
Momeni was arrested about eight and a half miles away from San Francisco, on the other side of the Bay Bridge, at his loft in Emeryville on Thursday.
According to the suspect's LinkedIn page, Momeni ran his own tech company for the past 13 years, called Expand IT, based out of Emeryville.
Within hours of his arrest, his company's website went dark and phones went unanswered.
His profile also says he graduated from the U.C. Berkeley, was bilingual in Farsi and spent time working as a consultant for other Bay Area companies like Coast Range and Marfic Technologies.
"It's even more shocking to find out that your neighbor is accused of the murder," Sam Singer, a neighbor said.
Sam Singer's public relations firm shares a wall with Momeni's unit in Emeryville's historic Besler Building, the same place police showed up with bull horns to arrest him early Thursday morning.
And while Singer says he hasn't seen Momeni in the past two weeks, he's never noticed any red flags.
"Nima is a very outgoing, very sweet, down-to-earth seemingly very professional gentleman, this is a complete shock to all of us in the building," he said. "He's very welcoming, very kind, just a good neighbor."
A much different opinion than that of Aaron Gipson's, who did web site work for Momeni but is still upset over a dispute they had regarding his pay.
"He was cruel, he was accusatory. But I didn't think he'd be capable of killing somebody," Gipson said.
How officials say Bob Lee died
Images obtained by the Daily Mail show Lee stumbling along Main Street after the stabbing. Lee is seen through the front glass doors of the Portside apartment building as he attempts to use the call box before falling to the ground.
Sources say Lee had two stab wounds in his upper left chest. Lee was on the ground for about 10 seconds before standing up and walking towards a police car. Police say Lee died at the hospital. Lee's cell phone and his wallet were not stolen during the attack and both items were recovered at the scene, multiple sources told the ABC7 News I-Team.
Who was Bob Lee?
According to a statement released by Lee's brother, the tech CEO came from a modest upbringing in the Midwest. He started out in programming by making web pages for small businesses near his parents' store.
His brother says Lee actually created a solution, unpaid, for one of the first computer viruses, Code Red, which shut down the world.
"He spent the rest of his career on that same path. Through his help in creating Android, he made a cheaper and widely used OS. With Square, later block, he was able to solve a major problem for small businesses and help them to democratize cost-effective payments. With Cash App, he helped people access the digital payments world. What attracted him to MobileCoin was their idea to connect business and payments around the world," said Timothy Lee.
Read the full statement below:
Bob was a loving Son, Brother and Father.
He positively affected millions of people throughout his life. He had an overarching need to make technology accessible, and to help out everyone. Bob's dream was to make technology free and available.
From a modest upbringing in the Midwest, he started out programming and making web pages for the small business that bordered his parents' own store. Many people may not know, in the early days of tech one of the first computer viruses, Code Red, shut down the world. A young Bob created the solution unpaid and then gave it to the world for free. That's who Bob was.
He spent the rest of his career on that same path. Through his help in creating Android, he made a cheaper and widely used OS. With Square, later block, he was able to solve a major problem for small businesses and help them to democratize cost-effective payments. With Cash App, he helped the all people access the digital payments world. What attracted him to MobileCoin was their idea to connect business and payments around the world.
Bob loved being in San Francisco, and San Francisco loved Bob. Walking down the street would sometimes be difficult because every young person with a dream would search him out, and he would make time for everyone.
After our Mom's passing 3 years ago, Dad moved in with Bob to share in his life and support. Bob's new job took him to Miami, Dad came along as well. His love for his Family and San Francisco kept him coming back.
Personally, Bob felt it was important not to judge based on someone's beliefs. This caused so many people to love him from a Burning Man Camp to San Francisco to Miami and across the world. This philosophy afforded him friends from every walk of life. His love of music and art created an amazing group of truly individual and loving people. This community has been extremely supportive in his passing.
Every day around the world, people interact with technology that Bob helped create. Bob will live on through these interactions and his dreams of improving all of our lives.
As a family, we're very thankful to the hard-working Detectives at the SFPD for bringing his killer to Justice. Our next steps will be to work with the District Attorney's office to ensure that this person is not allowed to hurt anyone else or walk free.
From the Family of Bob Lee
How friends, FinTech community are remembering Bob Lee
Lee had moved away from the Bay Area several years ago to Florida, but friends of his tell ABC7 News he was back in San Francisco for a business summit with MobileCoin.
Following his death, friends and other tech executives spoke out in shock and sadness.
"It's just almost numbing, I think everybody close to Bob is just in shock because there was no one who I don't think didn't love Bob," Doug Dalton, a friend of Lee, said.
Dalton said the two had dinner a week before his death, describing Lee's spirits were high.
"He literally did not seem to have a care in the world," Dalton shared. "He was very excited about where things were going with MobileCoin. He was very excited to be back in the Bay for a bit."
Even those who didn't know him acknowledged what he had accomplished in his career and the impact he had as a leader in financial tech.
"My hope that is people going to look now seriously about where he stopped, and then take it from that point," San Jose State University professor and tech expert Ahmed Banafa said. "And they say, 'Okay, so we will fulfill his dream or legacy by going to the next level.'"
What's happening next in the case?
Momeni is set to be arraigned Friday at 9 a.m. The DA's office is filing a motion to detain him without bail.
Momeni faces 26 years to life imprisonment.
Legal expert Steven Clark says it's important not to jump to any conclusions about the motive.
"Certainly the defense is going to be looking at all aspects of this case and they may argue that this at most was a manslaughter and not premeditated," Clark said. "And that is what is so interesting about the weapon. Why was a knife used? That's not what you would normally think of in a premediated type killing."
San Francisco crime - by the numbers
The high-profile stabbing also brought conversation from other tech executives saying that violent crime in San Francisco is horrific and the streets are unsafe.
Jenkins called out Elon Musk by name for putting out misinformation about the crime and those who criticized the city for its street crime. The chief and DA are very much on the defensive against critics who go after San Francisco for its crimes.
According to the latest 2021 FBI and local police crime data as compiled in ABC7's Neighborhood Safety Tracker, San Francisco is close to the bottom of the list of major cities, with 6.9 homicides per 100,000 people.
Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, Houston, Minneapolis, Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit and St. Louis had more reported homicides than San Francisco.
The crime trends for the year as of April 2, 2023, have 12 homicides compared to 10 for that same period last year. The number of reported assault cases is up by 2% and robberies are up by 14%. But rape and human trafficking crimes are significantly down.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has also spoken out, saying that social media has helped spread a message questioning the safety in the city.
"When the facts of many of these cases come out, many people are going to be surprised," Breed said. "It has really heightened events like this as well as people jumping to conclusions about what they think is happening."
ABC7 News reporters Amanda del Castillo, Cornell Barnard and Lena Howland contributed to this report.
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