EXCLUSIVE: Video shows San Rafael officer dropping off homeless man in San Francisco

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ByLiz Kreutz via KGO logo
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
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The video shows a San Rafael police officer dropping off a homeless man and his belongings in a residential area in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco City Attorney's office is investigating why a police officer from Marin County dropped off a homeless and mentally ill man in San Francisco, leaving him alone in a residential area with no resources.

In a video shared exclusively with ABC7 News, a police officer with the San Rafael Police Department is seen dropping off the man on 14th Avenue near Lake Street in San Francisco early in the evening on Saturday, July 30.

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A shocked neighbor, who asked not to be identified, recorded the video from her home across the street. She said after the officer unloaded the man and his belongings, he then drove off.

Neighbors said the man began causing trouble on their street. He seemed to light something on fire and then started throwing rocks and undressing in a driveway.

"We pulled into our driveway and there was an individual acting quite erratically, throwing rocks," one neighbor, a father of two young children, told ABC7 News. "It scared my oldest son quite a bit."

Members of the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco fire were then called to respond. They arrived about 35 minutes after the man was left by San Rafael PD.

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said his office is now investigating why this happened.

"San Francisco is not a dumping ground," Chiu said. "It's disturbing to think that another jurisdiction would drop someone experiencing homelessness or mental health challenges in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with no services or resources around it. It doesn't make for a good outcome."

A spokesperson for the San Rafael Police Department told ABC7 News that their officer should never have driven the man to San Francisco or any other outside county.

"We made a mistake," Lt. Scott Eberle said. "That is what we did, we dropped this subject off in San Francisco. That did cause resources that would not have been tied up in San Francisco."

"I want to extend our apologies not only to the San Francisco community, that neighborhood, but to the first responders who had to deal with this subject," he added.

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Eberle said earlier that afternoon the San Rafael police officer picked up the man at the Northgate Mall in San Rafael. The officer had been called because of reports the man was threatening a security guard at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. Eberle said the man was not armed and the officer did not believe the man's behavior reached the level of needing to bring him to a local hospital. He initially said the man asked the officer to take him to San Francisco, but later clarified that it was the police officer who made the initial request. Eberle said the man agreed and a supervisor on duty gave the police officer approval to drive him there.

Eberle said he does not know why the officer chose to drop him off where he did. Neighbors who live in the area believe it's because it was convenient and close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

"You come off the bridge, go through the tunnel, you make a right, it's easy to drop him off," a neighbor said. "What upset me most was that a public servant from another jurisdiction would import that into our neighborhood, would bring someone into our neighborhood and drop them off."

Another neighbor, Michele Sahl, expressed her concern for the man.

"It's really terrible because we shouldn't do that to another human being, number one, And why can't San Rafael take care of this?" Sahl asked. "San Francisco tries to take care of its homeless people, not without challenges, but I'm very disappointed."

Eberle said it is not part of San Rafael PD's policy to drive someone to another county. He said there are many avenues the officer could have taken, including trying to find him a shelter or guiding him to public transportation. He said the department is addressing the incident internally with both the officer involved and the supervisor on duty who approved it.

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"I cannot comment on ongoing personnel issues, but we are looking at this investigation and taking it very seriously," he said. "And I want to reiterate that this does not reflect the usual actions of the San Rafael Police Department."

Still, Chiu said his office is looking into how often this could be happening. He pointed to a 2013 "patient dumping" lawsuit San Francisco filed against the state of Nevada for busing mentally ill patients to the Bay Area without continued care.

"Between San Rafael and San Francisco, there's a lot of ground," he said, "So I don't think it was coincidental the drop off happened here, but we still need to learn more."

Chiu said legal action now is not off the table.

"We will look to hold any jurisdiction accountable that's proven to engage in this behavior," he warned. "Any jurisdiction that is thinking about doing this needs to think twice."

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