UPDATED: 95 Year-Old Woman Assaulted by Tent-Dweller at Proposed Residential Shelter Site

A 95 year-old woman was assaulted Saturday morning by a man living in the tent encampment outside 1515 South Van Ness, the site of a proposed residential homeless facility.

The assault took place at approximately 9:30 am on Saturday morning. The victim is a 95 year-old woman who has been a Mission resident since the 1930s.  According to several sources familiar with the incident, the victim saw two people drinking at a tent on the corner of 26th Street and Shotwell, and chastised them for their insobriety. A verbal altercation ensued, and when the elderly woman reached for her phone to call the police, one of the tent-dwellers reportedly grabbed her arm and began twisting it.

Two bystanders who were walking near 26th and Shotwell witnessed the scene, and began yelling at the drunken man to release the elderly woman. The perpetrator tried to run away. One of the bystanders gave chase, catching the man on Horace Street and detaining him until police arrived.

Meanwhile, the other bystander stayed with the elderly woman and escorted her home to her family. Police soon arrived, along with an ambulance, and the victim was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital. Along the way, the victim reportedly drove by the incident scene to positively identify the man who had assaulted her. The two bystanders who intervened to help the victim also served as witnesses in the police report. At St. Luke’s, the victim was treated for bruises and sprained arm.

The victim’s family says they intend to press charges against the perpetrator.

“It’s really scary when I think what could have happened if not for those two witnesses,” said the victim’s daughter, who lives near the incident scene.

“They don’t allow alcohol or drugs inside Navigation Centers [like the one proposed at 1515 South Van Ness], so we’ll have more of this happening on the sidewalks,” she said. “To have this happen now is very distressing.”

According to several sources familiar with the incident, an officer on the scene reportedly said the perpetrator would likely be released from police custody within 24 hours. Bernalwood contacted Capt. Bill Griffin from Mission Station for an update on the case over the weekend, but we have not yet received a response.

This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.

UPDATE: May 9: Reporter Filipa Ioannou from the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with the SFPD about the incident:

The woman got into an argument around 9:30 a.m. Saturday with two people that escalated into an assault when a man grabbed and twisted her arm near the intersection of 26th and Shotwell streets, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

The woman was not seriously injured, but was taken to a hospital for treatment partially because of her advanced age, according to Officer Robert Rueca, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department.

A man suspected in the assault was arrested, but his name was not immediately released.

That said, the Chronicle misstates the victim’s age. Her family confirms that she is 95, and not 92, as reported in the Chronicle.

PHOTO: Encampment at the incident scene, 1515 South Van Ness, Sunday, May 7, 2017, 5 pm, by Telstar Logistics


43 thoughts on “UPDATED: 95 Year-Old Woman Assaulted by Tent-Dweller at Proposed Residential Shelter Site

  1. This is horrible! I’m so glad the two witnesses stepped in and helped the elderly woman! If the homeless in the tents want the neighborhood to help support the effort for housing they shouldn’t let despicable people like this in their encampments.

  2. Chastising old drinkers for drinking- in what is their home whether she likes it or not- and then taking the hostile and threatening act of calling the police was a big risk on her part. I dont condone violence-and she should not have been touched under any circumstances – but age or sex doen’t protect as much as prudent behavior…

    • Are you hoping that by saying you don’t condone violence that it deflects from the first part of your statement in which you completely blame the victim?

      • Victim blaming is not the same as recommending common sense. Wait until you’re out of sight of the drunk crazy people and THEN call the police.

    • “Yeah, that pesky nonagenarian shouldn’t have been shooting her mouth off to the elderly “bon vivant”. Keep your mouth shut, granny.” Honestly, Neighbor J…

    • Are you kidding J? At 95 you have no more big risks to take. Additionally, at that age, you come from a very different world from most of the rest of us. She was likely doing what she thought was culturally appropriate, albeit about 55 years too late. Any a$$w!p@ who thinks it’s cool to assault a 95 year old, under any circumstances, needs to pay the consequences.

    • FFS, do we seriously have people around here saying the 95-year-old woman was somehow at fault here? Was her skirt also too short? Was she asking for it?

  3. “According to several sources familiar with the incident, an officer on the scene reportedly said the perpetrator would likely be released from police custody within 24 hours.”

    Assault = 24 hours then back on the streets? Really?

  4. It wouldn’t have mattered. Hillary Ronan said this is “already a done deal” at the very first meeting and it was made official last Tuesday, two days before the second meeting.

    I can’t believe that Lennar gave her their land and $1 million for this whole thing, I would love to see her try to pull something like this on her neigbors where she lives miles away in the Portola.

    I also wonder what Lennar’s shareholders would say about their scheme, especially in light of this terrible tragedy that could have even been a lot worse.

  5. Your report says this 95 year old has family. Why isn’t she with them? Gee willikers.

  6. I don’t get how not allowing booze and drugs inside the Navigation center will increase their use outside, given that the immediate area is already a homeless encampment and that part of the Navigation Center’s goal is to connect the temporary residents with drug and alcohol treatment services.

    • @paul h.

      really simple. walk by the navigation center on mission starting at mission and 16th and heading toward downtown. any time of day. you’ll “get” the link and concern.
      that said i still support navigation centers – but feel they too need rules about how they impact neighbors. this is a difficult process of integration at best.
      does anyone think that the condo owners at 15th and mission really opposed nuns or soup? it was their concerns about before and after feeding that led their opposition.
      anyone who twists an elderly woman’s arm over words needs a few court mandated months to dry out. if not in jail, at least far removed from any elderly or liquor store.

      • 16th/mission isn’t really a valid model for what’s going on at S Van Ness and 26th St- it’s been a focus of poverty, homelessness and drug use for decades. No rules on the part of the navigation center staff is likely to make a dent in the that scene. The homeless encampment on Van Ness has established itself due to the abandoned condition of the building, in theory a temporary condition.

        If you’re interested, here’s a report I found on the Navigation Center from 2016- http://dhsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Nav-Center-1yr-Eval-Final-6-21-16.pdf It’d be interesting to see a followup on clients a year later, but the numbers are encouraging as to their effectiveness.

  7. At least she wasn’t killed like the shooting that happened at the tent encampment under Cesar Chavez/101:


    I would hope that in exchange for creating a navigation center there would be a zero tolerance policy on tent camping in public spaces nearby. They bring NOTHING positive to the neighborhood or the tent inhabitants and providing the navigation center as a solution to no longer living in the squalor of a tent and getting access to city services at the navigation center is a great carrot and stick solution for people who clearly need help.

  8. This is terrible. Not really sure what it has to do with the navigation center, though. Lots of violence occurs at the hands of violent drinkers, homeless or not.

  9. I just had my car fixed at B&W, across the street from the bum encampment. I stood outside the building as I was getting away from the car exhaust in the shop. I wasn’t doing anything. One guy called out to me, “What are you the police or something?” Several glared at me. There were 12 tents I could see.

    This is not a time to open a facility for them; this is a time to roust them, take their belongings and force them out! Sure, someone will file a lawsuit against the city for taking their stuff, but jeez…many of them are wheeling their stuff around in STOLEN grocery carts. And SF has enough money to fight such nuisance suits in court. I’m tired of coddling the “homeless”; they are street bums. If people want to live in the commons (that is common areas), let them live (as they do) in Mendocino National Forest or other places where they are not a threat to others.

    What’s keeping them here is that they keep getting their stuff back. If the city stepped, gave them warning, and then took everything when they refused to leave it would be possible to get rid of this blight nearly overnight. Hell, the street bums have tents, camp stoves, sleeping bags, radios and even some TVs — all the creature comforts. No wonder they won’t go away. But take their stuff when they won’t go away and they’ll go away.

    I like B&W, which is why I’ve been going there for years, even though they’re more expensive than other garages. They do a DAMNED good job and I’m willing to pay extra for it, but I’ll tell you, having a bum camp across the street is so disconcerting it might affect their business.

    • Oh my god, they have CAMP STOVES? They eat HOT FOOD? What luxury!

      I really don’t want to live in your world where having one basic thing in your life that isn’t total fucking hell makes one undeserving of sympathy or human rights.

      I bet a lot of the people clamoring for the police to steal property from the homeless are the same people who wonder why the poor can’t “pull themselves up by the bootstraps”… btw there are not a lot of jobs, family / friends / support network or health programs in the middle of Mendocino National Forest.

      • Your sarcasm has been noted. In my own world I live without sarcasm, and I’m better for it. I greet each day with a smile, and think how lucky I am to be alive and well. But, there are people who take take take from society. They steal shopping carts. They use the public sidewalks for sleeping and pissing and shitting. They are being helped by city policies that not only tolerate them but encourage them. The use of camp stoves indicates that they’re not there temporarily, but intend to be there for the long term.

  10. No more urban camping. Health and safety alone dictate this.

    One “navigation center” per neighborhood ; spread them around the city.

    No more Hilary Ronen “done deals”.

    • And the nav center only take people from the encampments in their district before the City can direct any other district’s encampments there. These aren’t walk-in place — the HOT sends people in. The Nav Center on Mission and 15th routinely didn’t have any space for encampments by Cesar Chavez elementary or on Harrison because they had already taken people from encampments in other parts fo the city. If you want your part of the city to get the benefit of services, you need to share in the burdens.

  11. There are homeless people, who are down on their luck and forced out onto the streets. And there are the tent dwellers, who are not looking for assistance get back on their feet but rather have deliberately dropped out of normal society and prefer to live outside the norms and rule of law. It’s an insult to the true, needy homeless to conflate them with the urban tent dwellers. The tent dwellers take advantage of our homeless programs.

    • How can people grow up to be adults and not have a connection of friends who can help them when they’re down on their luck? If I were to lose my home today, I know of at least 3 friends who could immediately put me up until I could get back on my feet. Likewise, I help my friends as best I can when they have needs. That’s what living in a society is all about. But who are those people camping out on the streets? They’re either people who prefer to be there or people who have burned their bridges and lost their friends. We have to ask why they don’t have any friends. Chances are that they drove them away.

      • Oh, I don’t know, David…perhaps Mental Illness? Drug addiction? Abuse? Nah, if it hasn’t happened to you, personally, then it must be THEIR fault right?

      • Empathy is clearly not a characteristic you’re familiar with. As James indicated, there’s mental health issues & drug addiction. There’s also other addictions like gambling and alcohol abuse. There’s domestic violence. There’s eviction. There’s coming out as gay and being disowned by your family. There’s shame preventing you to reach out to that network of friends and family. There are literally a million reasons someone could become homeless. But yeah, let’s make sure to stereotype and assume the worst in people. Does that make you feel better about yourself David?

      • I believe the German’s call it Schadenfreude. Those German’s have a word for everything

      • My mother was homeless. She had family and friends who were themselves in the margins with poverty. She kept a job, barely. She became homeless to escape a man who beat her. Your comment is heartless and narrow minded.

        Good, well-trained folks can become homeless, too. You’re lucky it hasn’t happened in your family.

      • Wow, holy shit. I am starting to think *you* are the one who should live in Mendocino National Forest, away from the commons where you can hurt people. At least you have a car and can come and go as you please.

  12. Hey Todd,
    Things that were omitted from your article: A) Both Ronan and the Chief of Police stated that there will be 24 hour policing of the navigation center. Kind of a big deal (especially considering the standard fear mongering, NIMBYeque comments). B) Loitering outside will not be allowed by said police. D) Interestingly, there is not one major local news source that has covered this incident (Mission Local isn’t exactly what one would call major), nor is there a name of the victim stated in your article, would you be so kind as to provide your source of this incident, and a police report as a back up that this attack actually occurred? Thank you.

    • Thank you, Todd. Three things on that;
      1) It was the victim that went out of her way to approach them, where they live, to admonish them for drinking. So, it wasn’t some random assault perpetrated by the homeless. Leaving this information out leads to unnecessary assumptions and fear mongering by some of your already NIMBY readers.

      2) It would be helpful, and indeed a more well rounded portrayal of both the area, and the incident, if you included the following information also from the same paper which you seem to have sourced ” the area around the Navigation Center will be monitored by a dedicated police patrol, along with 24-hour security at the site.

      An outdoor recreation space built into the center’s design, said Ronen, will hamper loitering around its premises.

      Mission District Captain Bill Griffin said that a combination of officers on bicycles and in cars will focus on the area during the center’s existence.”

      Again, full information reduces fear, and helps move our neighborhood to a safer and more humane existence for all that reside in it.

      3) According to the same source you sited, she’s 92. Not 95, as your article claims. Certainly, it’s a small detail, but accuracy, much like presenting the whole story, matters when it comes to the legitimacy of any reporting.

    • @james isaname.

      i guess you don’t count the chronicle as real news? they list her age as 92.

      “Homeless man suspected in assault on 92-year-old woman in SF
      By Filipa Ioannou May 8, 2017 Updated: May 8, 2017 5:10pm”

  13. Oops, got a head of myself … C) There is adequate outdoor space within the facility, so hanging out outside is unnecessary.

    • I’m not here to comment on whether or not we should have a Navigation Center at this site. What I will say is that it really doesn’t matter to me what she said. Under no circumstances should any one feel justified in assaulting not only a woman but a woman of advanced age…EVER. Of course the people living in tents have their share of problems and frankly, neighbors tolerate a lot of anti-social behavior from them already. We have to draw the line somewhere and to me, assault should never be excused.

      • It’s not being excused. Much like your veiled bias, via your omissions.

  14. my bias against people who think there are justifiable reasons for assault? We are all accountable for our actions. Provided that these guys are not exhibiting some sort of mental illness, I don’t understand why we can’t hold them accountable for such a basic tenant of our society (assault against women and/or the elderly).

  15. Nope. No one is advocating violence against the elderly, or anyone else for that matter. So please clime off of your soapbox.

    My issue with your piece, is that you are pretending to be simply reporting an incident, while passive-aggressively omitting the full (and easily obtained) information. Therefore giving your readers a skewed understanding. You purposely put your bias into the article, without having the courage to say so (until challenged). If you’re going to report, do that. But do it fully. And if you’re going to opine, do that too. Just be honest to your readers about what you’re doing.

    • LOL I did not write the article, I’m just a commenter! I also have a BA in Sociology and have a solid understanding of the many reasons people become homeless. I’m not a monster. I go through at least three encampments on my way to/from work everyday. Even though I see loads of trash and stolen bikes, I still respect and acknowledge these folks as human beings. I warn them when I’m coming up behind on my bike, I go slowly so as not to frighten them as they emerge from their tents, etc.

      There are many issues that having a large homeless population brings up including cleanliness, safety, theft, etc. I believe most San Franciscans actually tolerate a lot because they do have empathy and understand that not everyone was born into this life with the same opportunities or tools to succeed in our society or that there are also instances where just plain bad luck or a perfect storm of things happen that can cause homelessness. I’m not really here to speak on that (though I can agree that the post does exhibit some bias against the homeless).

      What I am saying is that regardless of all these factors, there has to be a line drawn somewhere and to me, assault and violent crime are it.

  16. Others can judge whether I’m heartless or not, but one thing I do know is that my friends can count on me to help them with their projects and their problems as much as I’m able to do so. And I know I can count on friends to help me if I should go down. Mental illness is not an excuse, either. I know a number of mentally ill people from my time managing Section 8 housing in the Tenderloin, people I still know to this day, over 20 years later. Yeah, they may have their schizophrenia issues or whatnot, but they still try to be friends on whatever level they can. In fact I know one guy who lives on the street near the Powerhouse bar. He has issues, of course, but he also knows to make his footprint light. He doesn’t use tents or camp stoves, is always respectful to people, and is helpful when he can be. And he plays a mean game of pool. The tenters are likely to be people who have driven away their friends and family and have a mean streak and a hatred for society. If they want to live somewhere, let them go live at Slab City in the Mojave, where nobody will bother them, and they can do as they please every day. Here’s a link to info about Slab City: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slab_City,_California

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