When Shawn Dickerson woke up at 11 a.m. on Dec. 2, he was already late for work at Rolo, a men’s clothing store on Market Street.
“What’s up?” Anjulí Droll asked her friend and roommate, who she and another friend had stayed up talking with until 4 a.m.
“I’m late for work,” she remembers Dickerson saying. Before he raced out, he explained that he had called his boss and that he had to get to Rolo, where he had been working for the last four weeks, as quickly as possible.
A few minutes later, the 23-year-old walked out of the apartment he shared with five other people on Bartlett and 22nd Street. He has not been seen since. In the six weeks since his disappearance, Droll has pieced together a story that differs markedly from the impression she had when Dickerson left that morning — and from the more than three hours of conversation they shared in the early hours of that morning.
“There’s a huge possibility that he walked away, but also there’s a possibility that he killed himself,” Droll said. “It’s Shawn, so you never know.”
Instead of going to work that morning, Dickerson went on a walk. With his iPhone, he took photos of his feet, the Bay, and a meal he had that included what looks like duck a l’orange.
A few months ago, he changed his name on his Facebook account to Klaus Agnes, the names of two artists he likes.
At 4:02 p.m. on Dec. 2, he posted 16 photos on that Facebook account — something he never did — but only three can be seen.
When Droll saw the photos, she recognized spots on a walk they would often take together.
“When we weren’t working, we would walk through Chinatown, up Columbus and to the Aquatic Park and Fort Mason,” Droll said.
The photos indicate that Dickerson took that same walk. If he did, he would have ended it at a path near Fort Mason that leads up a hill to a small tower that has a weather webcam.
The Ceres, California native had been living in San Francisco for approximately six years, renting or crashing at friends’ apartments. Four months ago he decided to move in with Droll, a close friend who had been his girlfriend for two years during high school in Modesto.
“They went to prom together,” said Dickerson’s mother, Trisha Brucker, who lives in Denver, Colorado. Brucker has not seen her son in two years, but he was expected to visit her this month.
Even though Droll and Dickerson were no longer a couple, the two recently decided they would move to New York together, where Dickerson had lived for a short while in the summer of 2010.
To get there, they promised to work, share rent and save. They figured they could move in nine months.
The first step was to share a room in a house on Bartlett and 22nd Street — a room that is almost the same as Dickerson left it on Dec. 2.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with his stuff. I thought, do I box it up?” Droll said.
Next to the bed the friends shared, three sticks of his Old Spice deodorant still sit on top of Droll’s vanity. On the desk, Dickerson left behind an extra set of keys and a pair of sunglasses. In the closet, all his suits and button-down shirts are still on hangers. The only thing missing is the music equipment his aunt picked up recently.
Dickerson and Droll had talked about death many times in the past — his own and those of the people he had lost, including his father, who died in a motorcycle accident when Dickerson was two years old, and a high school friend who died shortly after graduation.
When suicide came up, Droll said, Dickerson said it wasn’t an option. He told her he couldn’t do that to his mom. Suicide was not a conversation they had had recently.
Although she knew Dickerson as someone who had very intense highs and very severe lows, lately everything seemed to be going well for him.
He was hired at Rolo, he played keyboard in Feie, a local band that performed around town. Droll and Dickerson liked to play pool at Bacchus Kirk on Bush and Taylor streets, and although he had to stop the Lucky Shots pool league once he started at Rolo, he continued to play for fun.
Full-time work meant Dickerson paid back the money he borrowed from friends for his deposit on the apartment, and he was ready to start saving, Droll said.
Thinking back, she said that he ran into a minor problem a few weeks before he disappeared, when he lost his identification in mid-November. He had no bank account, so the owner of Rolo helped him cash his paycheck on Dec. 1.
That same day, Droll said, the store owner met with Dickerson for a work review and then let him leave early for lunch. Dickerson walked out and failed to return. He didn’t mention the work review to Droll when he came home after 1 a.m. on Dec. 2, or in the morning before leaving for work.
Droll later discovered from Dickerson’s phone records that his boss had texted him on the afternoon of Dec. 1, asking where he was. Phone records show that Dickerson replied to the message around 11:30 that night and apologized.
Dickerson explained that he had autism; his boss replied that the message sounded like an excuse and that he didn’t want to work with him if he couldn’t rely on him coming back to work, Droll said.
Dickerson’s boss declined to speak with Mission Loc@l for this article, and the manager of the store said he was not sure what happened during the review.
Although Dickerson has never been diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, his roommate and his mother said they had wondered if he suffered from it because of his tendency to disconnect from time to time. Several months ago, for example, he changed his cellphone number but forgot to tell his friends and family.
His mother, who said she would talk to Dickerson once every two to three weeks for hours at a time, called Droll when she couldn’t reach him. Droll was not surprised that her friend had forgotten to tell his mom about the change, and teased him. “Shawn, you didn’t tell your mom!,” she remembers telling her friend.
Brucker agreed that her son had been happier recently. When he first disappeared, she wasn’t too worried because it would be like him to take off on an adventure without telling anyone. “He’s very adventurous,” she said. “I could see him pack up and travel to Europe …. I’m not surprised that he’s walked away, but I’m surprised that it lasted this long. After two weeks, we freaked out, we thought, did something happen?”
Brucker said her son had been excited about seeing her this month.
His mother had told him to ask his boss for time off to make the trip to Colorado, but it’s not clear if Dickerson did that.
The last call Dickerson made on his iPhone was on Dec. 2 at around 1:14 a.m., as he was walking back to his apartment, according to Droll.
The call was to a neighbor who lived nearby. As they talked on the phone, Dickerson found him sitting on their shared stoop, so they talked for a minute outside. Dickerson, the neighbor later told Droll, looked frustrated and told him about losing his job.
The neighbor didn’t return Mission Loc@l’s calls.
Once Dickerson walked inside that morning, he never mentioned losing his job or even having any problems at work, Droll said. She got no sense of someone who was ready to walk away from his life. When he left the next day, she said, he left behind a heavy jacket that he would typically have taken if he were going very far.
Neither Droll nor Dickerson’s mother think that losing a job would have put him over the edge. “Shawn doesn’t care,” said Droll. “It would have had to be something else. He could have easily gotten another job.”
Dickerson, reported missing on Dec. 6, is now listed in a national database of missing persons. If he is arrested, he’ll show up as a missing person. Otherwise, the only thing police can do is keep checking in with the people he’s been in contact with.
Phone records show that Dickerson has not used his iPhone since Dec. 2. When Droll called him on Dec. 3, it went straight to voicemail.
San Francisco Police Inspector Joe Carroll told Mission Loc@l that there are approximately 300 missing persons reports filed in San Francisco every month. “The vast majority of them are located,” he said. “Sometimes people just take off, hang out for a while, but it’s usually not this long.”
Dickerson is described as 5’9″, 145 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He has no tattoos and no major scars. If you have any information, please contact Inspector Joe Carroll of the Missing Persons Unit at 415-558-5508. For more photos and information, click here.