A wacky story involving a chase from San Francisco deep into Contra Costa County began unfolding Sunday evening in North Beach, when a suspect allegedly assaulted a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul Church on Filbert Street.
The SFPD says that officers responded to the church at 5:52 p.m. Sunday on the report of an assault, and they found a suspect who fled in his vehicle despite attempts to stop him. As KPIX reports, the subsequent chase through San Francisco featured multiple "suspicious devices" tossed out of the suspects car at police, at least one of which was a Molotov cocktail that was thrown near Eighth and Mission streets.
As Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the North Beach neighborhood, tells the Chronicle that he had friends who attend Saints Peter and Paul Church who were present when the assault occurred, saying the suspect had gone up to take communion. Also, they said the man had been to the church before.
Peter Marlow, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese, said that the suspect was asked to consume a communion wafer and refused, and then allegedly punched someone before fleeing.
"This one is one of the weirdest things ever. I’m struggling to understand what the motivation of the individual was," Peskin tells the Chronicle. "Thank God nobody got seriously hurt."
The pursuit of the suspect, as KTVU reports, became a multi-county affair, and the SFPD let California Highway Patrol take the lead beyond the Bay Bridge. The chase ultimately ended in Martinez with the suspect's arrest, and CHP had a bomb-handling robot investigate the contents of the suspect vehicle and its trunk.
According to troopers, there were bomb-making ingredients found in the car, per KTVU.
The suspect has not yet been publicly identified.
Peskin told the SF Standard that the suspect, after being arrested, "wanted to know how many points he got in his Grand Theft Auto game." It's not clear if this was a joke or if the suspect may have actually been operating under the delusion that he was in a video game.
The man allegedly tossed at least two devices from his car — an alleged pipe bomb on the 1500 block of Jones Street, and the aforementioned Molotov cocktail while driving through SoMa.
In a statement, SFPD Sgt. Kathryn Winters said, "This is still an active incident and further information will be provided when available."
Anyone with information to share about the case is asked to call the SFPD tip line at 415-575-4444, or text a tip to TIP411, beginning the message with "SFPD."
Update: At a press conference Monday, SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar said that the suspect reportedly demanded money from the parishioner inside the North Beach church before assaulting them. Lazar described the suspect as a Hispanic male in his early 40s, but said that the suspect's name is being withheld until later today.
Photo: Til Kraus