EXCLUSIVE: SF firefighter describes brutal 2022 attack by colleague that ended his career

Friday, June 14, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: SF firefighter describes brutal 2022 attack by colleague
San Francisco firefighter describes brutal 2022 attack by his colleague which ended his career.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gabriel Shin described the attack at the hands of another San Francisco firefighter. "The whole time I was yelling at him, I said, 'Robert, stop, what's wrong with you, stop,' you know, and he just didn't stop. He was relentless."

Shin is talking publicly for the first time about a brutal attack that he says ended his career. Another firefighter stands charged with beating him with a hydrant wrench. The I-Team's Dan Noyes first told you about this case two years ago, but now, the victim has decided to speak about what happened.

EXCLUSIVE: SFFD tries to keep firefighter's arrest, colleague's brutal beating under wraps

A San Francisco firefighter is facing felony charges after an attack on another firefighter. SFFD tried to keep this quiet, then the I-Team was called.

Connected to this attack, Gabriel Shin has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that asks a basic question. Why was the victim forced out of the San Francisco Fire Department and the suspect still works there?

San Francisco firefighter Robert Mohammad had a family crisis in July 2021; we won't discuss details out of respect for his privacy. But his colleagues were concerned about him.

Former San Francisco firefighter Gabriel Shin told the I-Team, "People offered to cook for him, people offered to work his shifts for free and he rebuffed my offers. But I've never had a conflict with him prior to this."

Six months after that family crisis, firefighter Gabriel Shin tells me Muhammad called to ask who in the firehouse was talking about his private business.

Gabriel Shin: "Robert, I said, I take ownership for speaking about that and you know, because we were concerned for you but I'm not going to tell you who told me. And he said the next time he sees me, he's going to hurt me."

Dan Noyes: "He said that?"

Shin: "Yeah. Well, I mean, he used a pejorative, but yes."

Noyes: "Well, I'd like to know what he said."

Shin: "The next time I see you, I'm going to (beep) you up. That's exactly what he said."

Court records show that, two days after that phone call, Robert Muhammad used a computer at Station 25 to retrieve Shin's work schedule and his home address, and left the station with what's called a "hydrant spanner" - a heavy, brass wrench measuring 15 inches that's used to turn the water on and off. Muhammad drove across the bridge to Shin's home in Oakland and found him out front, sweeping the sidewalk.

"I heard somebody say, 'Are you going to tell me, are you going to tell me who told you?'" Shin said. "And I turned around and I said, 'Robert, what are you doing here?' He said, 'Who are you protecting?' I said, 'I forgot.' And then he reached into his back pocket. He pulled out the large brass spanner, and he started swinging at my head."

A witness called 911.

Emergency operator: "911 emergency, what are you reporting?"

Caller: "Yes, somebody's being beat with a wrench on 9th Avenue and East 19th Street."

Court records allege Muhammad swung the wrench at Shin's head approximately twelve times, breaking his arms as he tried to protect himself, giving him a concussion. One blow sent Shin's glasses across the street, he said. The attack stopped only after a neighbor who works against human trafficking pulled a handgun and confronted Muhammad.

Shin told us, "And then he slowly dropped the spanner and looked backwards and walked away towards his car, which is approximately a block-and-a-half away."

Robert Muhammad has pleaded "not guilty" to felony assault with a deadly weapon, with several enhancements and one special allegation - great bodily injury. His criminal defense attorney, Jim Bustamente, has declined to be interviewed about this case in the past...

Noyes on Jan. 29: "I'm going to cover this in the future. I appreciate your time."

... and has not returned our phone calls and email this week asking for reaction to the Gabriel Shin interview.

In addition to the criminal case, Shin has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco, Robert Muhammad, Chief Jeanine Nicholson and other members of the San Francisco Fire Department for Battery, Assault, Race and Color Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Retaliation and more. Shin's attorney, James Torres, says Robert Muhammad never faced discipline and never missed a paycheck. "You have an individual that the chief has allowed to continue working all this time, continue drawing taxpayer salary all this time after attempting to murder a fellow firefighter."

The lawsuit also says several of Shin's direct supervisors ordered him to drop the charges, and to not cooperate with the police investigation of the attack.

"The first person called me and said, 'Is there any way we can work this out?' Gabriel Shin said. "The second person called me and said, 'You can't charge him. You know, you've got to drop the charges. That man's got a family.' And of course, I was angry. I said, 'You know, he just tried to kill me.'"

The lawsuit says, "They treated Shin with startling prejudice and Muhammad with baffling favor from the outset because they saw one difference: Shin is Asian and Muhammad is Black." In their answer, the defendants deny each and every allegation.

Still recovering from his injuries and PTSD, Gabriel Shin refused a fire department interrogation which he believed would not be about the attack, but focused on who was talking about Robert Muhammad's family crisis.

"Within days of that, Chief Nicholson and those deputies took away his pay," James Torres said. "They took away his health insurance before he could even recover from those injuries."

No response from Chief Nicholson, and City Attorney David Chiu's Office emailed me that "we will continue to respond to the complaint in court." The city attorney has arranged outside counsel for all those defendants. One other item from the federal court file -

911 dispatcher: "San Francisco police."

Brandon Kleinman: "Hey, I've got a guy following me. I just served him some legal documents. I'm on Treasure Island. Wonder if you could help me out."

Last year, a process server went to the Fire Department Training Center where Robert Muhammad now works. After he handed the firefighter a summons, Brandon Kleinman tells us he got into a high-speed chase with Muhammad, so he called 911. "And it was raining super hard, there's construction on the island. It's like, really sketchy."

911 dispatcher: "Subject now agitated and he's following you in his vehicle?"

Kleinman: "Yeah."

Kleinman says, "We're going like 75 miles an hour weaving in and out of other cars. We're not the only ones on the road. And he's coming up and he's swerving, trying to hit me."

Muhammad finally backed off. Gabriel Shin's lawyer tells me they informed the City Attorney and filed a declaration about what happened into the case file.

Shin adds, "I think that that if you look at the situation objectively, that there is no way that he should still be working. If he were a police officer, I don't think he'd still be working and drawing a salary. I don't understand why that's happening, but that is happening."

Gabriel Shin now spends most of his time outside the state. He tells me there's too much to trigger his PTSD, when he stays at his house in Oakland.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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