For five minutes on Sunday morning, a man on Julian Avenue between 15th and 16th streets screamed for help.
Some neighbors heard him at around 2 a.m., but no one helped and no police showed up. Sometime later on Sunday the man died, becoming the Mission District’s first homicide for the year.
The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the man as Richard Sprague, 47, of San Francisco.
Sprague didn’t live on Julian Avenue, said SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza.
Neighbors said police told them Sprague was stabbed, as reported earlier by Mission Loc@l, but now officials say that he wasn’t stabbed and the cause of death is pending medical examination. An autopsy will be performed within the next 48 hours, according to the medical examiner, but the results may not be available for months.
From what witnesses said, Sprague’s was a slow, agonizing death.
“He was yelling, ‘Help, help, I can’t breathe.’ … He ran out of air,” said a neighbor. “He also said, ‘Please call the police.’
“If I had known I would have called the police. But you always hear people yelling here. You get used to it.”
Apparently, no one did call the police until 7:42 on Sunday morning, approximately five hours after the initial screams were heard.
“We got a check on a well-being call at 7:42 a.m.,” Esparza said. Someone called the police and reported seeing a man on the sidewalk at about 6:30 a.m., and that he had not moved. When officers arrived they found Sprague unconscious, and he was declared deceased at the scene.
A resident who lives nearby saw the victim lying belly-up on the sidewalk without his shoes on, and with his shirt up and his blue pants unbuttoned.
“He was laying there and people were walking right by him,” the resident said. He added that he also did not call the police, because “I see people passed out all the time. I feel bad. He must have been there a while.”
“We’re canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone saw anything, if there is any surveillance video,” Esparza said. “We’re looking into the fact that people heard screams at 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Investigators are reviewing all call logs for the fire and police departments to see if there were any other calls.
There is no information on a possible suspect.
Neighborhood residents said it is common to see people doing drugs on this block.
Police began investigating the incident Sunday morning, Mission Mission reported. Officers posted at least a dozen signs throughout the area, asking people for help.
“We ask anyone in the area of this street and the blocks surrounding it who saw or heard anything to contact SFPD,” the signs read. “You can remain anonymous: tip line 415-575-4444.”
On Monday afternoon, area residents were upset by the incident — upset that no one had called the police or an ambulance.