Court hears self-defense claim in Upper Haight murder case 

The self-defense claim of 23-year-old murder suspect Dustin Tolboe was heard Tuesday in court, the latest development in the Upper Haight death-by-skateboard of 60-year-old Donald Tanksley, known to the neighborhood as a peacock-feather salesman who went by Zumba.

Tolboe’s attorney Seth Meisels argued in the preliminary hearing that his client was using the skateboard to defend himself from Tanksley, who tried to steal beer from Tolboe and a group of friends. According to police interviews, Tanksley was asked to leave but then began swinging his metal-tipped cane at members of the group outside at the corner of Haight Street and Masonic Avenue just after midnight on Christmas Day.

Meisels said Tolboe was initially defending himself from the cane with his skateboard, and then struck Tanksley just below his nose with a single “jab” of the skateboard. Meisels described the skateboard blow as an “instant reaction” to the cane attack.

“It’s a tragedy,” Meisels said. “But that doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.”

Tolboe, a resident of Thatcher, Utah, who was visiting San Francisco for a few weeks, was arrested at about 10 a.m. Christmas Day and has been in jail since then. Originally facing accusations of assault, Tolboe was charged with murder by prosecutors Jan. 5.

Scheduled to take the stand Tuesday are San Francisco Police Sgt. Greg Kane and a medical examiner who evaluated the body of Tanksley, who died at San Francisco General Hospital four days after the incident.

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Dan Schreiber

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