It's the crime reporters' version of Groundhog Day, to write what seems like the same confounding report again and again. But here we are, once more talking about a law enforcement officer who makes the astonishing decision to leave his or her gun in their car as they park in San Francisco, only to have it stolen and used in a crime.
This time, the victim was 23 year-old Abel Enrique Esquivel, Jr., who police said via press release Wednesday was shot at 2 a.m. near 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue on August 15.
Transported to San Francisco General Hospital, Esquivel died the following day.
On Monday, police arrested two suspects in the case, and on Tuesday a third. All three men — 18-year-old Erick Garcia Pineda and 24-year-old Jesus Perez-Araujo were nabbed at 16th and Mission, police say, and 18-year-old Daniel Cruz, arrested on the 2600 block of Mission — are SF residents who the San Francisco Police Department says were allegedly "responsible for several robberies that occurred in the Mission District between August 13th and August 15th," as well as an aggravated assault.
According to a GoFundMe page established by members of Esquivel's family, the victim was killed in one such robbery, when while walking home from his work as a night staffer at a local market, “two hooded individuals” who attempted to rob him fired the fatal shots.
According to the Chron, "Esquivel was a compassionate young man who volunteered at a community center in the Mission District."
It's towards the bottom of the SFPD press release that you see the clock flip.
During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the weapon used in the homicide was a personal firearm registered to a San Francisco Police officer that was stolen from his personal vehicle on August 12, 2017. The Department is conducting an internal investigation into the circumstance of the theft of the firearm.
Where have we heard this, or something like this, before? Oh, I know:
- May 29, 2016: A vehicle belonging to an FBI agent was broken into at Hayes and Pierce Streets, on the southern edge of Alamo Square Park. Stolen were the agent's badge and his FBI department-issued, fully loaded Glock 27, and ankle holster.
- March 25, 2016: San Francisco sheriff deputy’s gun, duty belt, and bullet proof vest were stolen from a Visitacion Valley home, as was an SFPD star
- February 19, 2016: An ICE agent lost his gun in the Ingleside after leaving it on top of his car and driving off
- January 28, 2016: Three handguns, an FBI badge, credentials, and “miscellaneous FBI property” were stolen from a car parked in Benicia
- October 18, 2015: An off-duty CHP officer was robbed of his his "personal" handgun after he left it in a backpack on the front seat of his Prius, parked at 8th and Howard
- September 13, 2015: An ICE agent's gun is stolen from a vehicle parked in SF, and was later used to kill an Oakland muralist
- June, 2015: A Bureau of Land Management agent left a gun "in a backpack in the back of his car 'in plain sight.'" After that gun was stolen, it was used to kill Kate Steinle. Her family has since filed suit against the BLM, charging "lax enforcement of gun safety regulations among the law enforcement agencies involved."
In this most recent case, the San Francisco Police Officers Association followed up the SFPD release with a statement that took things from bad to worse, saying that the officer was apparently so freewheeling with his car gun that he didn't even know it was gone:
A few weeks ago, a vehicle belonging to an SFPD officer was burglarized and the officer's personal firearm was stolen, unbeknownst to him. There were no visible signs of the burglary, and the officer did not realize that the vehicle had been broken into, nor that the firearm had been stolen. Days after the burglary, that firearm was used in a gang-related homicide. The officer, a highly-decorated veteran, is devastated. He is working with the Department to fully comply with its investigation into this case.
Police have not released where they believe the theft to have occurred (though, how could they know, if the police officer didn't even notice his gun was gone?), nor any details on the officer. Following Wednesday night's Police Commission meeting, SFPD chief Bill Scott said little was known regarding the crime. “As far as our department policy, there is a department policy on storage of weapons in vehicles, it’s pretty clear,” Scott told CBS 5.
“The weapon is supposed to be stored in a locked container that is affixed to the vehicle. So, I don’t have the details for that because the investigation is ongoing, but there is a policy for that.”
Former Supervisor David Campos, who launched the locked container regulations back in 2015, told NBC Bay Area that his law was proposed specifically to avoid tragedies like this one.
"The idea was to make sure that every person in the city, every San Franciscan, knows if they have a responsibility if they have a gun and they leave it in a vehicle, it has to be secured."
"If anything," Campos said, "there's an expectation that police officers would be held to a higher standard."
SF Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus appears to agree with Campos regarding standards for officers, telling CBS that when she heard the news of the homicide weapon's origins, "I was surprised."
“Given the fact that guns in officers’ cars have been in the news in the last 18 months and crime being committed by that," DeJesus said, "I was concerned and surprised that there wouldn’t be more care in leaving a gun in a car.”
If the gun was indeed unsecured, Mission District Supervisor Hilary Ronen says “The officer needs to be held accountable."
Speaking with the Ex, Ronen says “If anyone should be setting an example of how to safely store weapons in vehicles especially given a number of tragedies that have occurred it is sworn police officers. They should be setting an example.”
Meanwhile, the suspects in Esquivel's death are currently off the streets and in custody at San Francisco County Jail. Pineda faces charges of "homicide, multiple counts of robbery, conspiracy, burglary and attempted murder," the SFPD says. Perez-Araujo was booked on multiple counts of robbery, burglary, and conspiracy, and Cruz faces homicide, conspiracy, robbery and possession of stolen property charges.