Summary of the Testimony Thus Far in Neighbor Alex Nieto’s Wrongful Death Trial


Last week, the civil trial pursued by the family of Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto against the San Francisco Police Department got underway to determine if police wrongfully killed Alex Nieto during a March 21, 2014 officers-involved shooting on  the north side of Bernal Hill.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kale Williams described the key elements of Wednesday’s testimony when SFPD officer Richard Schiff was on the stand:

Upon pulling within 25 to 35 yards of Nieto, Schiff testified, he got out of his car and immediately demanded to see Nieto’s hands, at which point Nieto began walking “purposefully” toward the officers and responded, “No, you show me your hands.”

“As we got out of car, he took what we call a boxing stance,” Schiff said, getting up to show the jury how Nieto allegedly raised his arms to his chest. Schiff said he saw the pointed weapon and the red laser beam before he began shooting, and stopped when [SFPD training sergeant Jason] Sawyer instructed him to cease fire.

Schiff said he continued to fire even after Nieto went down because Nieto ended up in a “prone position,” still facing the officers and appearing to point the Taser.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Nieto Family presented their new witness, Antionio Theodore, who described seeing something very different that night. Joe Rivano Barros from MissionLocal summarized Theodore’s testimony:

Theodore — a Trinidadian singer with the group Afrolicious — said that Nieto had his hands in his pockets the entire time and did not make any movements towards his waist. He also said the only command he heard from officers was one “Stop,” before they started firing and said he heard nothing from Nieto, a contradiction of police testimony offered on Wednesday.

“[One officer] fired a first shot at the man in the red jacket,” testified Theodore, who was the last witness called to the stand and was examined by the plaintiffs until the trial ended for the day. “He then fired another shot, fired a third shot, the person then fell on their knees, [and] within a second he got a fourth shot and he fell on his face.”

Theodore then testified that a 45-second pause followed the fourth shot, when Nieto had already fallen to the ground. At that time, another officer in a parking lot down the hill “was loading up a semiautomatic rifle and he got on the scene [of the shooting] right after the fourth shot, and they all started firing up on the man while he was on the ground.”

Theodore returned to the stand on Friday, as Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner, representing the defense, questioned his recollection of events.  Kale Williams from the Chronicle described what happened next:

Baumgartner repeatedly questioned Theodore about a deposition she took from him in May 2015, in which some of his answers were purportedly different than the ones he gave in court.

Theodore had not gone to police to give a statement in the immediate aftermath of the killing — he said he was scared of them and didn’t trust them — and city lawyers have suggested he is biased against law enforcement.

Asked Friday whether he had ever spoken with an investigator from the offices of the Nieto family’s attorney, Theodore replied, “No.” But Baumgartner read a transcript from the deposition in which Theodore recounted speaking with the investigator on three occasions, once in person and twice on the phone.

Baumgartner also indicated that, in the deposition, Theodore had recalled telling the crowd at a music venue that he had witnessed the shooting and thought it was unjustified. But Friday, Theodore said he had not made such a public statement.

At one point, Theodore attributed his difficulty recalling specific dates and times — and recalling his deposition answers — to heavy drinking.

“You have a different memory now from the one in the deposition?” Baumgartner asked.

“Slightly,” Theodore responded. “I drink a lot and that kind of helps sometimes, but I do not remember.”

The Nieto trial resumes this week, with testimony expected to continue at least through Friday.

(Review all Bernalwood coverage of Alex Nieto)

New Murals Take Shape Inside Sutrito Tower Complex



In case you hadn’t already noticed, the muralization of the the Sutrito Tower utility building is well underway on Bernal Hill. Omar Masry from the SF Planning Department says:

Precita Eyes Muralists has begun work (see attached photos) on the mural on the walls of the main equipment building (nothing is being added to the fence or tower). Weather permitting, the mural should be completed in a few weeks.

The building permit to remedy prior site deficiencies has been completed, with landscaping (non-invasive type) and a water tank (will generally utilized recycled water) for landscaping. We are also working with American Tower (the site operator) on making sure lighting is not on all night.

If you see anything suspicious or attempts to trespass please contact the Ingleside Police Station at (415) 404-4000.

IMAGES: Courtesy of SF Planning Department

Bernal Hill Is Now Very Green, Very Lush, and Very Gorgeous


January was gray and damp, and according to the weather-watchers, we had more rain in January 2016 than we had for the previous five Januaries combined. Hooray! But there was a break between storms over the weekend, so Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter and I took advantage of the sun to document the glory of Bernal Hill in full Green Mode.

To make our tour a little easier to follow, let’s use this official Ski Bernalwood trail map for navigational reference:

The Cub Reporter and I started on the south side, under a cloudless blue sky, just below Sutrito Tower. The colors were sizzling.


From there we walked toward Rock Quarry. For much of the year, this area looks like a passable facsimile of the surface of Mars. But right now, the chert formations in the quarry have grown a green peachfuzz beard:


And of course, no visit to Rock Quarry is complete without some walking meditation in the labyrinth:


Thus even more mindfully, we headed north along the western rim of the quarry, after stopping to admire another reminder that Bernal Is For Lovers:

Then we started climbing up, to take in that incredible OMFG Martian view of Sutro Tower and Noe Valley:


From there we continued north, to take in the colors and contrasts of the Owl’s Nest face. This is always one of my favorite views, but it’s so much more festive in green, don’t you think?


Then we climbed a little higher, to the fence around Sutrito Tower just above the 14 Limited face. From here, Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter took a moment to survey her hometown. (It must be tough to grow up in San Francisco, because it kind of ruins you for life):

24380284319_885d062605_kFrom there we continued along the summit ridge, until we got our first view of Bernal Hill’s east half. Oh my:

We continued east, walking along the ridge beneath the Vista Pointe chairlift, toward the quiet slope of Haunted House, on the southeast part of the hill. Thick green grasses were billowing in the wind, and hundreds of yellow Oxalis were open to the sun:

Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter confessed that this is actually her favorite spot on Bernal Hill. Then she sat down in a patch of grass with a panoramic view of the 101-280 spaghetti bowl, and began to weave a garland from Oxalis flowers:


That moment was about as good as any moment gets anywhere on our planet — or any other planet, for that matter. I looked back toward the west, to appreciate the scene:


It was time to continue our survey, so we contined east along the north side of the ridge, until we hit the mysterious tree-shrub thingy that some Bernalwood readers  tell us is actually a California Buckeye. Only, with so much green grass beneath it, it doesn’t seem quite so spooky at the moment:


From afar,  however, the tree-shrub thingy still looks sculptural, and the intensity of the green grass makes it look even more otherworldly:


Starting today, we’re in for a few days of unsettled weather. But next time the sun comes out, take a lazy stroll on Bernal Hill  to enjoy it during this period of peak seasonal engreenment. You will feel fortunate.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics


Spirit Animal Alert!! Coyote Sighting on Bernal Hill


Yesterday, the Bernalwood Office of Wildlife Affairs received several confirmed reports of a coyote sighting from multiple locations on Bernal Hill. The photo above was taken on Bernal Hill yesterday by @nataliacosa, and it’s so amazing.

Neighbor Jim captured a photo of the coyote  on the hill at 10:15 am, “just above the art rock,”  he says. (Specifically, it looks like the slope on the northeast face that riders at Ski Bernalwood call “Buckeye.”)


And here’s what Neighbor Chris saw at about 9 am, near the quarry on the southwest side:



Now, if we can set aside spirit animals and natural wonder for a moment… it’s time for a Public Safety Announcement. The coyote on Bernal Hill is awe-inspiring, but it also means humans with dogs — and especially, small dogs — should be vigilant.  We encourage you to re-read these important tips from a local coyote whisperer on how to navigate coyote-canine encounters.

UPDATE: Neighbor Jengis documented another coyote sighting today, Jan. 26, at about 10:20 am around “the wilds near Waltham and Alabama”:


David Bowie Remembered During Renegade Bernal Hill Memorial Singalong


Something beautiful, and lovely, and enchanted, and very Bernal happened last night. At the end of a day that many Bernalese spent mourning the death of David Bowie, a Bernal neighbor hit upon the genius idea to organize a tribute: A renegade David Bowie singalong and dance party on Bernal Hill.


Bernalwood received a private communication about the idea from Neighbor Sam via the red phone late Monday afternoon:

Hey Bernalwood….wondering if you’ve heard of any memorial gathering in Bernal tonight for a little Starman sing-a-long? Was thinking top of the hill at sundown…

“Oh hell yes!” we said. By 5:30 pm Neighbor Sam had completed the arrangements. She’d procured two loudspeakers, wrangled a generator, and compiled an all-Bowie playlist. An 8 pm start-time was selected, and shortly before 6 pm, Bernalwood was authorized to begin transmitting an all-points invitation via our social media frequencies:

This was greeted almost instantly by an energetic cascade of Twitter retweets and Facebook reshares.

The result was that even though there had been just two hours of advance notice for Neighbor Sam’s renegade David Bowie memorial singalong, somewhere around 50 to 75 people come together on Bernal Hill to remember Bowie’s life and listen to his music.

It was dark on our hill, but the air was  calm and clear, and the lights of San Francisco unfurled like a twinkling Ziggy Stardust galaxy below. Here’s a sampler of the scene; a video montage of three Bowie songs, as experienced by a very lucky group of neighbors on Bernal Hill last night:

The tribute lasted for about an hour and a half, and there were many smiles and hugs, and then it was over.

Immense thanks go out to Neighbor Sam, who provided the inspiration and the infrastructure to make this magical, musical Bernal Bowie memorial happen. Somewhere in space, we know David Bowie was smiling.

PHOTOS and VIDEO: Telstar Logistics