As San Francisco Police Department Officer Elia Lewin-Tankel continues to fight for his life, the driver who allegedly struck him then fled has pled not guilty to the crime.
As previously reported, Lewin-Tankel was struck by the driver of an SUV while on bike patrol on Turk Street between Franklin Street and Van Ness Avenue last Wednesday.
The collision was witnessed by multiple police officers who were at the scene investigating a firearms case, and a subsequent investigation revealed that the suspect vehicle — a Lexus SUV subsequently found abandoned near Buena Vista Park — bore a stolen license plate.
Police linked a man they identified as "50-year-old Maurice A. Johnson" to the crime, booking him into San Francisco County Jail on charges of "use of a deadly weapon commissioned of a felony, assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, inflict great bodily injury on another in the commission of a felony, battery with serious bodily injury, resisting arrest causing great bodily injury, stolen auto, felony possession of stolen property, felony evading causing serious bodily injury, reckless driving causing injury, felony evading a peace officer, unlicensed driver, and resisting/delaying a peace officer," the SFPD said via written statement.
The suspect also goes by "Maurquise Johnson," according to multiple news reports.
Johnson, who was arrested last December on a drug charge and convicted of possessing a controlled substance (crack and marijuana), in February, after which he served 67 days in jail, made his first court appearance in this case Friday, ABC 7 reports. And while there, he "interrupted his attorney several times," addressing the judge directly.
When called by name, ABC 7 reports, Johnson "corrected the judge and gave another name -- Willie Flanigan." (For the sake of clarity, however, I will continue to refer to him as "Johnson" throughout this report.)
Johnson will be defended by Public Defender Alex Lilien, whose name you might recall as the attorney who successfully defended Castro corpse mutilator David Munoz Diaz from murder charges in a headline-grabbing choking death during a sexual encounter at Buena Vista Park.
It looks like even the able Lilien will have his hands full with this case, as he told ABC 7 that "There is going to be video -- I'm sure witnesses, statements, multiple statements, and interviews. And the lives, it's irresponsible for me to comment on very much until I've seen all of that."
While in court Friday, Johnson pled not guilty then "objected when bail was set at $10 million, saying he was a non-violent offender and called the judge's action 'racist.'" He remains in custody as of publication time.
Meanwhile, Lewin-Tankel remains in San Francisco General Hospital. An update on his condition had not been provided as of publication time, but on Friday Police Officer's Association President Martin Halloran told ABC 7 offered a hopeful sign, saying "He is certainly doing better than he was Wednesday."
"Elia is a fighter," SFPD Bill Scott said last week of Lewin-Tankel, who at last report remained in critical condition at the intensive care unit. "...And the fight is not over."