Noe Valley Voice November 1998

Police Beat: What Was She Thinking?

By Officer Lois Perillo

In early August, a 45-year-old Noe Street resident was taken into custody after she vandalized a local bar, punched two bar patrons, and assaulted a police officer. This would be old news, except for the fact that the suspect wrote a letter to the editor, accusing the police of harassment (see this month's Letters section).

According to witnesses, the incident started out like this: At 3:45 p.m. on Aug. 11, a bartender at Noe's called police to report a violent woman who was destroying property inside the bar. When Officer Barbara Pinelli arrived, she found that the woman had left the bar and was standing in front of Happy Donuts at 24th and Church.

As the officer approached, the suspect allegedly said, "F--- you, bitch. I ain't going with you," and began walking west on 24th Street.

Despite Officer Pinelli's order to stop, the suspect refused to comply and doubled back on 24th Street. Officer Pinelli took hold of the woman, who resisted and swung at the officer, who ducked. The suspect pulled away and then ran south on Church and west on Jersey Street. The suspect continued to resist and punched Officer Pinelli twice in her face, breaking her glasses, bruising her eye, and cutting her cheek.

A 40-year-old witness to the assault then assisted Officer Pinelli in handcuffing the suspect, who was taken to Mission Station by other police officers while Officer Pinelli investigated the bar incident.

The bartender told Officer Pinelli that the woman had been drinking with a male companion at Noe's since 12:30 p.m. When her companion left, the suspect demanded that other male patrons buy her drinks. The bartender informed the suspect that her behavior was unacceptable and directed her to leave. According to the bartender, the woman then became enraged and yelled, "I am a member of the John Birch Society. Go back to your own country!" and challenged the bartender to a fight.

After the bartender called police, the suspect's anger increased, and she broke out a glass window pane and destroyed a ceramic pot that held a plant. The bartender made a second call to police. The suspect then punched an unidentified male patron in the face and a 39-year-old male in the face before exiting the bar and crossing to the donut shop, where Officer Pinelli first came into contact with her.

The woman was taken to County Jail and charged with two counts of vandalism: felony assault on an officer and providing false identification. Both male bar patrons declined to press charges, as did Wayne Basso, owner of Noe's.

The district attorney rebooked the suspect on misdemeanor assault of an officer and providing false identification. She spent several days in jail, then was released on her own recognizance. Since then, she has continued to make timely appearances in court.

Officer Pinelli's face has healed, and she sends her thanks to the man who lent her a hand.

Stolen Money and Motorcycle

In September there were three reported robberies within my Noe Valley beat. As I reported in last month's column, the Bank of America branch at Castro and 24th was robbed Sept. 15. Inspector Tom Horan of the Robbery Detail is investigating that case.

Then on Sept. 22 at 3:10 p.m., a 38-year-old man was the target of a carjacking after he parked his motorcycle on the 800 block of Diamond Street. A male suspect in his 20s approached the driver from behind and pushed a hard object into his back. The driver turned to see a gun pointed at him by the suspect, who said, "Give me your bike!" The driver complied, and the suspect fled south on Diamond, riding the man's 1998 red Honda VFR/RS motorcycle.

In the third incident, which happened on Sept. 30 at about 9:15 p.m., a 42-year-old man working at Modern Market at Church and 26th streets was robbed at gunpoint by a man in his 20s. The robber fled east on 26th Street in a 1985 tan van driven by another man who was with a 10-year-old boy.

Use a Knife, Lose Your Car

On Sept. 12 at 2:41 p.m., a 25-year-old man who had parked his car on the sidewalk in the 200 block of Chattanooga Street brandished a knife at a man who had asked him to move it.

When Officer Angel Lozano responded to the scene, the suspect had already left in his brown Ford Mustang, which was later found by Ingleside District Police and towed from the 300 block of Whitney Street.

A hold was placed on the car, forcing the owner to contact the police before the car could be released.

Next Time Turn Down the Music

On Sept. 4 at 10:30 a.m., a 30-year-old man and resident of the 200 block of Jersey Street was cited for battery after he assaulted his 44-year-old neighbor, who had asked him to lower the sound level of his stereo.

The suspect made his Oct. 5 court appearance, and the charge was dismissed.

Tips from Your Neighbors

Jennifer of Jersey Street alerts you to the possibility of mail-tampering. Secure those mailboxes. Yvette from Dolores Street says beware of con artists who contact you via the phone. Don't give out any personal information.

Meanwhile, Kate of Elizabeth Street warns you to watch out for porch thieves -- mark your outside furniture and pots with your driver's license number, attach tables and benches to fixed objects, and use lights that are triggered by motion.

Craig of Chattanooga Street gives you a heads-up about burglars casing your street: Be obvious when noticing these potential bad guys or gals. Let them know that you see them (e.g., turn on a porch light, open a door). Alert your neighbors and call the police (553-0123) to report a suspicious person.

Burglar Number Two Nabbed

A lieutenant sergeant and two officers from Mission Station went undercover and nabbed a burglar suspected of committing a string of commercial burglaries in the Castro.

Although convicted burglar Larry Kraft, aka the Termite, was arrested in September, not all the Noe Valley commercial burglaries stopped, and store burglaries in neighboring Eureka Valley and the Castro soared.

To stem the burgs, Sergeant Bob Barnes extensively tracked the break-ins, and Mission Station Captain Gregory Suhr directed plainclothes police to saturate the area.

On Oct. 1 at 5:19 a.m., Lieutenant Kevin Cashman, Sergeant Barnes, and Officers Steve Mooney and Dorian Hopkins were working undercover within the target area when a man on his way to work saw the suspect in a doorway of a liquor store, holding a pry tool. The man notified a BART station agent, who called police.

A few minutes later, James Michael Flannagan, 39, was taken into custody on the 700 block of 14th Street at Market. After an investigation, he was charged with three felonies and a parole violation.

Flannagan's fingerprints were submitted to police crime scene investigators for a comparison to those prints taken from other burglary sites. As of this writing, Flannagan's prints had been matched to two additional burglaries.

My Continuing Saga

At the end of a pretrial hearing on Oct. 8 in Alameda County Municipal Court -- during which I testified for 21/2 hours -- the judge ordered the woman who assaulted me on June 10 to stand trial in Superior Court.

Although I've been on the stand many times before in my 14 years of policing, my past experience did not truly prepare me to testify as the victim of a violent crime.

This time (unlike my San Francisco court experiences), I entered a courtroom assigned solely to my case. The defendant sat to the left of her attorney and was closest to the witness box. The deputy district attorney was to the right of the judge. My partner Heather, along with our friends Angela, MaryJane, and Maran of Victim Witness Assistance, sat behind the DA.

Since I was the only witness, I was close to the defendant during most of the hearing. However, I chose not to look at her except on two occasions, once when I was called to identify her to the court and again when her attorney asked that I describe her current hairstyle. When I looked, she averted her eyes from mine.

At times she would write something on her pad and her attorney would ask me a question like, "Did you demand money from the defendant?" As I answered no, I thought, What was that all about? And so it went.

When the judge gaveled the proceedings to a close, my friends and I left the courtroom and went out in the hallway to talk. The defendant remained with her attorney for a while, then exited, passing us in the hall.

Next stop for the defendant is a series of pretrial conferences in Superior Court, where plea bargains may be discussed. It's just like on TV's Law & Order.

We'll see what happens. Till then, be safe and continue to watch out for one another. I'll see you on patrol.

San Francisco Police Officer Lois Perillo patrols the northern half of Noe Valley --from Valencia to Grand View and 21st to Cesar Chavez Street -- often by bicycle. If you would like to discuss a neighborhood problem, call her at 558-5404, the community policing line at Mission Station.