Bloody month ushers in new year in SF 

click to enlarge Neighbors and family members turned out to hear city officials including Bayview Police Station Capt. Robert O’Sullivan speak on the recent spate of homicides. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Neighbors and family members turned out to hear city officials including Bayview Police Station Capt. Robert O’Sullivan speak on the recent spate of homicides.

A black suitcase stuffed with a dismembered body that was found a block from Twitter's headquarters Wednesday afternoon was a gruesome reminder of the level of violence seen so far in San Francisco in 2015.

This year's bloody beginning comes on the tail end of a historically low year for homicides in San Francisco at 46, a number not matched since 1954.

And although Wednesday's case has not been officially ruled a homicide, there have already been nine in The City this year. If the current trend continues, the homicide tally could hit a number not seen since the mid-2000s.

So far this month, there have been about 20 percent of the 46 homicides recorded in all of 2014, which had only two fewer homicides than 2013.

In terms of totals, there were two months last year (July and November) in which nine homicides were recorded. The total for January will rise if the dismembered body parts case is indeed ruled a homicide. Last January, there were three homicides.

For the "last five years, 10 homicides in a month is very extreme," Bayview Police Station Capt. Robert O'Sullivan said about the quantity of this month's deaths.

Investigators don't know the gender of the body found Wednesday, or if there was more than one body in the suitcase. Body parts were also discovered near the suitcase.

What's more, detectives have no idea where the death occurred, Officer Grace Gatpandan said. That means if it is ruled a homicide, it might not count toward The City's total.

Wednesday's discovery was made after someone called 911 about 4:15 p.m. and reported a "health hazard" on 11th Street between Market and Mission streets. Police arrived soon after and found a suitcase filled with body parts.

Police detained and questioned three people in connection with the discovery, but they were ultimately released. And it remains unclear if the body parts are from one person alone.

Half of this year's homicides occurred in The City's southeast. On Thursday night, a march and rally were held in the area to denounce the recent violence.

The year started off with the shooting death of a 21-year-old man near Candlestick Park on Jan. 7.

Up until the body parts were discovered Wednesday, the bloodiest and most troubling incident was the fatal shooting of four young men Jan. 9 in Hayes Valley.

Police believe that shooting was gang-related. The men were sitting in a stolen car near the intersection of Laguna and Page streets, and two guns were discovered in the car after the shooting.

Two more homicides occurred in the southeast, in Visitacion Valley on Jan. 20 and the Bayview on Jan. 25.

On Tuesday, two more people were shot and killed in the Bayview — one of them a mother with her three children beside her.

All of these incidents were followed by Wednesday's discovery.

One other violent incident also marked the year's first month. While not a homicide, so to speak, the shooting death of Matt Hoffman was equally violent.

On Jan. 4, two police officers shot and killed the 32-year-old after he pointed an Airsoft pistol at them outside the Mission Police Station in what looked to be a suicidal act, according to a note Hoffman wrote.

Last year, there were only 24 homicide arrests made. The year before, there were 21.

The top homicide total in San Francisco history was 138 in 1977.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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