A situation that unfolded inside a Polk Street SRO earlier this month has pitted the San Francisco Sheriff's Department against the Public Defender's Office over what the latter says was the "preventable and unnecessary" killing of a man's dog.
On the morning of September 5, four sheriff's deputies arrived at the Broadway Hotel at 2048 Polk Street to serve a bench warrant to 33-year-old David Wesser. Wesser had a history of missing court appearances, and he had just missed another, on August 30, to face a burglary charge. As KPIX reported last week, the deputies broke down the door of Wesser's studio apartment after he refused to open it, and according to their account, they faced an unleashed and "aggressive" pit bull. One of the deputies allegedly discharged his weapon in the direction of the animal, killing her, and allegedly injuring Wesser.
As the Examiner now reports, via an account from the Public Defender's Office in a written complaint dated Monday, September 16, the four deputies involved were Richard Balmy, Paul Lozada, Julio Molina and Viridiana Ponce. According to Public Defender Manohar Raju, one of the plainclothes deputies had been "pacing around the hallway with his gun at the ready" prior to busting into Wesser's apartment, and it was that same deputy who shot Wesser through the right hand, and fatally shot the dog with the same bullet.
Raju contends that the deputies were waiting for only eight minutes before breaking down the door, while an attorney for one of the deputies suggests that they had been trying to get Wesser to open the door for 40 minutes.
"The suspect in this case, Mr. Wesser, could and should have avoided any problems including the sad death of his dog, by opening the door during the over 40 minutes that the Sheriff’s Department told him to come out," says attorney Harry Stern, per the Examiner. "[Also] He should have restrained his dog rather than letting him loose to attack a law enforcement officer."
Ken Lomba, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, tells the Examiner that this is all "political grandstanding" on the part of the Public Defender's Office, and adds that the deputies were simply carrying out a judge's orders when they busted into Wesser's home.
A spokesperson for the SFSD, Nancy Crowley, questions whether Wesser was actually shot in the hand or whether the dog bit him prior to the shooting. And further she implies that the officers' frustration in physically serving the bench warrant was because it was the 17th court date that Wesser had missed, and he was apparently well known to the courthouse and perhaps the deputies.