Three-county car chase ends in Financial District fatal police shooting 

click to enlarge An Escalade driven by a carjacking suspect lays on its side after it crashed at California and Battery streets. The suspect was shot and killed by police after refusing to surrender. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike koozmin/the s.f. examiner
  • An Escalade driven by a carjacking suspect lays on its side after it crashed at California and Battery streets. The suspect was shot and killed by police after refusing to surrender.

Robert Dominguez did not get to finish his breakfast.

When he saw the white Cadillac Escalade flying through the air toward him Thursday morning, he thought better of staying put.

The sprinkler fitter was finishing an egg and bacon sandwich in his utility truck at the corner of California and Battery streets before heading to work when the intersection just feet in front of him seemed to crash into motion.

As soon as the Escalade came to a rest on its side atop another vehicle, Dominguez and other witnesses ran to help the trapped driver. But before he and others could do much, someone started firing a gun.

"All of a sudden, the guy shoots at us," Dominguez said of the driver. "I didn't realize it was a gun, I thought something maybe blew up in the car."

Minutes later, the driver was dead, shot down by multiple San Francisco police officers after he repeatedly refused to put down his weapon and get out of the SUV.

The three-car collision and fatal shooting in downtown San Francisco, witnessed by Dominguez and others in the dark, wet morning hours Thursday, had its origin across San Francisco Bay in Richmond when the suspect carjacked a woman in front of her home and led law enforcement in a high-speed chase across three counties.

Just before 5 a.m., Richmond police got a call from a man reporting a carjacking on the 2500 block of McBride Avenue. The victim, a woman on her way to the gym, was getting into her car, according to Richmond police Lt. Andre Hill, when the suspect allegedly opened the passenger door of her Escalade and pointed a gun at her.

She escaped and police soon spotted the SUV. The suspect headed to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and they followed.

Once in Marin County, California Highway Patrol units began the chase, which led them north to Novato where the SUV exited the freeway only to return to U.S. Highway 101 south toward The City, CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said.

The CHP followed the SUV into San Francisco until Lombard Street where the San Francisco police took over. The SUV managed to evade police near Bush and Taylor streets, but around 5:55 a.m., dispatch received reports of an accident at the corner of California and Battery streets in the Financial District.

It was around that time that Dominguez's breakfast was interrupted.

"I see him hydroplane across California," Dominguez recalled. "It flipped over halfway and landed on the maroon truck. I really felt like it was gonna fly and land on me."

When he approached the car along with several other people, the back window was broken and children's toys were on the ground. He thought a child might have been trapped inside.

On the driver's side, Dominguez briefly saw a Latino man.

"The guy just seemed a little distraught," he said, adding that the man may have yelled something that sounded like, "The kid, the kid."

Before Dominguez could do much of anything, he heard sounds like an explosion and another man who had run to help told Dominguez, "He's trying to shoot us."

Soon police in large number surrounded the vehicle.

"He attempted to step out of the car then he went back in. ... Shortly after that the police started shooting at him," Dominguez said.

When Mary Grace Moser, who works at Cafe Madeleine on California Street, came upon the scene, police were securing the site and pushing back bystanders and yelling at the suspect, she said.

"Get out of the car, drop your gun," she recalled them yelling. Then she heard a cacophony of bangs.

From his nearby office, Ross Sweetser, who works in finance, could hear the gunshots, too.

"It sounded like a bunch of metal pipes falling of a flat-bed truck," he said.

Then there was silence and Moser "figured whoever it was had to be dead."

According to the Police Department, officers at the scene repeatedly asked the suspect to put down his weapon but to no avail.

"Fearing their safety and the safety of the public, several officers fired at the suspect," a department statement said. "The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene."

The incident, in which a man aiding the crash victims was hit by a bullet fragment but was not injured severely, is under investigation and the officers involved have been put on paid leave, which is protocol in such cases.

The name of the suspect has not been released.

Hours after the incident, as crime scene investigators went about their business, Bob Sexton, the building engineer at 353 Sacramento St., had his own cleaning up to do.

High above the scene, on the 11th floor of the building, a single bullet had pierced a window and entered a lawyer's occupied office.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
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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