It may be that we won't ever get a completely reliable description of events of what happened with disgraced former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru to lead to his arrest Wednesday on a robbery charge. But it sounds like there were at least a couple of witnesses, and while several supervisors have expressed sadness about Nuru's apparent "unraveling," at least one is urging caution in jumping to conclusions.
The news of Nuru's arrest after an incident involving a knife and a bag of chips at the SF-Marin Food Bank on Wednesday is a strange story that only adds to the convoluted saga of City Hall corruption and the end of an alleged fiefdom of graft that one man presided over for years, according to federal prosecutors.
Among the new details we get in this report by Mission Local is that Nuru allegedly approached a fellow volunteer at the food bank in a break room, "holding a small kitchen knife," and demanding the volunteer's bag of chips.
Nuru reportedly insists this was all a joke, but the volunteer says he was scared or disturbed enough by the incident that he left the food bank and called the police.
This version of events is a far cry from, say, a mugging on the street with a switchblade, is what the initial reports on Wednesday made one picture.
And Supervisor Myrna Melgar, rightly, said in comments to the Chronicle that she remains "deeply skeptical" of the story and whether Nuru deserves to be dragged through the press over this. She notes that it's possible this volunteer was not legitimately threatened, but was someone "who feels threatened by a large, black man with a kitchen knife," and who misunderstood a joke.
"It is also entirely possible that the other volunteer acted inappropriately in calling the police and the press," Melgar tells the Chronicle. "I’m going to wait and see if it warrants shock. Right now what I have is empathy for the guy."
Initial reports, though, also suggested the volunteer believed Nuru might be mentally "disturbed."
This has all led to several other supervisors pouncing on the case to decry Nuru's alleged past misdeeds while simultaneously expressing their sadness.
"It’s so sad and depressing watching the downfall of this person who I worked closely with and who did a lot for San Francisco, even though I’m incredibly angry about the corruption," says Supervisor Hillary Ronen to the Chronicle.
Supervisor Matt Haney calls the incident "very strange and sad."
"Even though I really think what he did in our city was just so reprehensible, I hope if he needs help personally that he gets it," Haney tells the Chronicle. "We don’t want to see anybody unravel to the point that they hurt people."
Update: The DA's Office says no charges are being filed in the case. Their official statement says, "Mr. Nuru was in the kitchen of a food bank where he was volunteering when he held up a kitchen knife and appeared to have joked about taking someone’s potato chips. An independent witness corroborated that this appeared to have been said in jest. There was no evidence that he actually tried to take the potato chips; this appears to have been an inappropriate and misguided attempt at humor."
Previously: Mohammed Nuru Arrested After Allegedly Pulling a Knife While Volunteering at Food Bank