The hunt is on for thugs who killed a former City College of San Francisco soccer stud in what investigators believe was a case of mistaken identity or a robbery gone awry.
About 12:15 a.m. June 28, 26-year-old Ermias Kassaye, of San Francisco, was found shot in the head execution-style by a 9 mm automatic handgun near the intersection of Howth Street and Mount Vernon Avenue, police said.
Kassaye, who had moved here from Ethiopia in 2002, had no known criminal ties and was simply walking home from the Balboa Park BART station when someone jumped out of a gray or gold Pontiac Grand Am and confronted Kassaye, police Officer Albie Esparza said.
The gunman was chasing Kassaye when he shot him, Esparza said.
After the shooting, witnesses told police, the suspect climbed into the back seat of the Pontiac and the car fled north on Louisburg Street and then south on Geneva Avenue. The car was trailed by a dark-colored SUV, Esparza said.
Investigators believe that the suspects, based on the description of the cars they were driving, were part of a series of robberies in the neighborhood and possibly are gang members as well.
“It’s like they were driving in packs,” Esparza said, adding that there remain “a lot of unanswered questions.”
Hoping the public will help in catching the killer, police on Tuesday released a sketch of a possible suspect.
Family and friends were stunned by Kassaye’s untimely death. Melaku Aynalem, who in 2010 coached Kassaye while he played for the all-Ethiopian team the San Jose Anbessa Sports Club, said he couldn’t think of a reason why anyone would want to kill Kassaye.
“I was shocked,” Aynalem said, adding that Kassaye was friendly, down to earth and a very good soccer player.
Hundreds of people packed Kassaye’s funeral July 3 at Bryant Mortuary. Mourners said he had once dreamed of returning to Ethiopia to coach children in soccer, KTVU reported at the time. Attendees reportedly were stunned that anyone would want to harm Kassaye.
Photos posted on Kassaye’s Facebook page show him posing with soccer teams in stadiums nationwide, along with pictures of him as a child playing in Ethiopia.