The 100 block of Julian

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.

Police posted dozens of notices around the area where a man was found dead.

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.

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. I have lived in the Mission for 21 years and I stop and help. I call the police. I respond. Why don’t others?

  2. What kind of losers wouldn’t call the police if someone outside their window was screaming “call 911”? We have partiers and drug-addled people coming by our windows as well, and I can clearly make the distinction. Congratulations, your “someone else’s problem” mentality cost someone their life.

  3. I live in SOMA and I feel for the Missionites.We have just started to get the kind of violence that happens in the Mission and Bayview .People are being stabbed like left and right.I am a San Francisco lifer and it is kind of scary.I mean I have spent time in the Penitentiary and I have seen stuff right outside my door,that made me cry.I wish I would have heard him we are about 9 blocks down Mission on Natoma any time I hear anything I send My Roomate out with our dogs to see what the fuck is happening.I live in a basement but the dogs KNOW THEY KNOW when it is serious.Isn’t that wierd?Sorry for your loss,If there is anything I can do Call Me .
    (415)230-0442.I don’t wan’t this shit to happen not ONE MORE TIME!

  4. Is this the same neighbor for both these quotations? —

    “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.”

    IF YOU HAD KNOWN? The man said “Please call the police” — what more do you need to know??

  5. people may not see much point in saying anything now, but if you have any information the mans family needs your help. The man in question is my uncle and was an amazing, loving, and caring man so if you have info please share it with the police

  6. Wow, the people who paid a half a million for a broom closet sized condo in the Mission several years ago are probably feeling pretty stupid right about now.

  7. This is how my last call to 911 went when I saw a group of 6 teens walking up the street shooting out car windows (like a bunch of them, more than a dozen) with a bb or pellet gun.
    911: Can you describe them?
    Me: yea, 6 African American kids, mid to late teens
    911: And the one with the gun, can you describe him?
    Me: um well, African American, grey hoodie, black pants. Maybe 16 or 17?
    911: anything else?
    Me: well I didn’t really run up to them to get a good look y’know. So, no.
    911: So what should we do about it?
    Me: [flummoxed] um, maybe send a cruiser over to y’know stop them from shooting out windows?
    911: well if you can’t describe them how are we supposed to know who it is?
    Me: because there’s only one pack of black teens running around in this block at the moment shooting out windows?
    911: but you can’t describe the one with the gun?
    Me: I can. African American, grey hoodie, black pants.
    911: that’s not much of a description.
    Me: [getting pissed off now] So should I go back outside and run after them so I can give you a better description?!?
    911: well what do you expect us to do with a description like that?
    Me: So should I have bothered to call at all? I’d have thought the police would be interested in something like this.
    911: Well I can’t send a car unless we know there is something going on.
    Me: So the broken glass all over the place isn’t enough? Listen you can still hear the shots going off- WTF?
    Me: Oh god, you’re worthless. Nevermind.
    911: So you don’t want a car sent now?
    Me: you gotta be kidding me. Do whatever you want. [click]

    1. A) I find this very hard to believe and an extremely un-credible story. 911 doesn’t say “what do you want us to do about tit? ” Every call is audi-recorded and documented. They tend to send a cruiser and/or ambulance for even the most minor event out of an abundance of caution and for liability reasons.

      None the less, 911 is the WRONG # to call in a situation like this. Clearly kids shooting BB guns is not an emergency. Call the non-emergency police response line: 415-553-0123. Thats what its there for. Live cop always answers.

      1. yeah, I bet 0 out of 10 people know that number. How about being smart and creating a non-emergency number, like 7-1-1?

    2. Yeah, I find this hard to believe too. I had some kids throw a water balloon at my car. I didn’t know what it was, so I pulled over and called the cops. It was very dangerous because they could have caused me or another driver to have an accident. The cops came in about 15 minutes. I did not have a very good description of the kids and no one asked what they wanted me to do about it. Could be the dispatcher you got was just being an ass. I think you could report that.

  8. I live right across the street from where this happened. I don’t want to generalize and say all the neighbors don’t care, because that is not true. I for one call the cops every time I hear someone yell or some raucous on the street. I even call if I see people dealing or shooting drugs. I was home that night and was in bed by 1am. I did not hear a thing. Nothing! I feel terrible for what happened and I do keep a watchful eye. The fact is that we need more cops in this area. And more communication between neighbors. We are good people trying to make it in this city but we can’t be blamed for this tragedy. We are trying our best…

  9. My wife and I live on Guerrero and see many fights stemming from the drunkenness that happens on 16th. We also see people getting their purses and phones snatched with the assailant fleeing into Valencia Gardens. We always call the cops, and we always check on the victims. Even if it’s just to ask them if they are hurt. Hell we even call the cops when we see someone too drunk to walk, they’ll become a victim if we don’t. I mean come on people! Care about those around you, this culture of “I don’t get involved” is pretty much a front for “I am more important than everyone else, my parents told me so, and so in the end nobody matters but me.” to let a human life so sadly escape from this world makes us all a little less human. Imagine that person as YOUR son or daughter, YOUR brother or sister, YOUR father or mother, and then act, for the life you save, is your own humanity.

  10. Aside from “Shame on you Julian Avenue” — We need more beat cops in this end of the Mission. Five hours went by on a Saturday night, and not once dd an SFPD car on patrol pass by?!?

  11. This story is just sad!!!!since when is it become normal to hear people cry out for help and do nothing?!!!when is it normal to see others doing drugs in the !!!Our new generation is going to this is normal just to walk by and not help,everyone should start taking pride in the Mission district I say hell yea call the police if someone is hurt call the police if there is someone doing drugs on the street in front of our children!!!call the police that what they get paid for they have time to harass people they need to help our comunity if everyone has the attitude where they dont want to get involved where does that leave us?things are only going to get worse!!!I love the Mission I was born and raised there and believe me its changed so much and only”WE,YOU,US can change it I know I would have called the police if you have to deal with an attitude from the operater well oh well you could be saving a life!!!!

  12. I am a resident of Julian Avenue. I am sickened to know that someone was robbed and murdered steps away from my front entrance. The person quoted in this article who heard screams of “Help! Help! Call the police!” and ignored this poor victim’s pleas is pretty typical of the neighbors around here. Indifference and apathy to one’s own environment pretty much sums up my experience living in this part of the Mission.

    People dump trash along Julian Ave all the time and the neighbors cannot be bothered to help pitch in to clean up the street or even call the DPW. I too, often hear yelling in the street, but there’s a difference between yelling and someone’s desperate plea for help.

    This place is a ghetto and is only reinforced by the mind-set of my neighbors who live here. As long as their satellite dish is hooked up, they don’t care.

  13. This is why I move from sf great city horrible people, sad part is is not the native san franscicans that have the screw you attitude. Poor guy may he rest in peace

  14. I live in a pretty rough part of town. Any hollerin’ gets me and my neighbors looking out the window and listening. We call the police if there’s any sign of trouble and they respond quickly every time.

    Sad that nobody did anything for this poor soul.

    Thanks for reporting this. Mission Local doing a much better job than the Chronicle covering stuff that matters to us.

  15. Wow. So much here. Just because the police didn’t show up until 5 hours later does *not* mean that no-one called the police. They simply won’t come unless you tell them you saw a weapon (gun or knife) and that the attacker/shooter is still there. If you can’t say those two things, don’t bother calling.

    You couldn’t pay me to call 911 again, unless there is an active attack going on; and I’m ready to say I see a gun – as the only way to get a response. I’ve called a few times for auto accident’s, describing the scene from my third floor window a few houses away – and the operators every time were nasty and snippy because I couldn’t provide the name, DOB and eye color of the drivers; just could hear bystanders crying “he’s hurt, he’s hurt” as they huddled around seriously smashed up cars. Both times, when someone finally came, they took the drivers away in an ambulance. Imagine that; they were hurt.

    I called one day, early afternoon on a weekday, for a homeless man who had cut himself on a broken bottle, and was bleeding profusely from the hand. **Profusely.** I had to talk the operator into sending paramedics; I mean seriously talk her into it, cajole, plead, practically bribe her; the issue being that he was a homeless person and we didn’t know his name or how he’d come to be hurt. . . we went out with towels and staunched the bleeding, sat with him, putting pressure on the wound. . . paramedics finally showed up. Found his wound serious enough that they took him to the hospital. Imagine that.

    A year or two ago, we heard screaming, maybe a half block away on 24th street rather late at night. . . and again. . . and again. . . agonized about calling, finally called 911 knowing they’d be snippy about it, said we couldn’t see anything, but had heard someone screaming intermittently for some time now, and please could they have a cop drive down that block. . . sat in the window and watched. It only took them about an hour to drive by that time; the screaming had stopped by then.

    The neighbor called the cops just a week or so ago, ‘cuz the ‘bangers messing with his son were here again beating up on the kid – four on one; they’d previously beat up both the kid and his dad; had shown a gun in the past; dad always called the cops, they know this is “real” and an ongoing threat of several months duration- and no-one came. Again. Two hours later they drove by to see if the dad and his son were OK. We’re old and grey, but if my neighbor’s son is under threat, we’re going out there with baseball bats and tire irons, screaming at them that the cops are coming – hoping the lie will run them off. What else can we do?

    And then, yes, there are also far too many people who don’t bother to call for help, or ignore what’s going on on the streets around them. It’s deeply disturbing that no-one went out and helped this man, once the attacker was gone. I’d really like to know more about whether or not and how many calls were made to 911 about this.

    1. I called the non-emergency number one night because there was a group of 10 kids sitting on my stoop and they kept intermittently hammering on my doorbell (the former without the latter would have not been memorable). They were very helpful and responsive and sent cops over within 20 minutes. I felt guilty even calling but couldn’t be sure exactly what was going on. I think maybe you get better results with the non-emergency station numbers than with 911?

    2. Tessa, wow, thanks for sharing that. I won’t let that deter me from calling, I hope, but your stories are heartbreaking.

    3. Maybe the SFPD response is down, but when I lived on 17th and Capp I called 911 whenever I heard the word “Help.” They always came and quite quickly.

    4. Tessa, I’m sorry you’ve had those experiences, but I have to say that I’ve had the opposite. Weird that we live in the same neighborhood. I’ve found the police non-emergency folks to be incredibly kind and friendly and when I’ve had to call 911 they’ve been great (this coming from someone who was a bit of a miscreant in my youth and always had a healthy fear of cops).

      I guess that I don’t get the point of your comment. Do you want to deter people from calling the cops when someone is in need? Are you defending the people who chose not to call the cops when a man lay dying in the street on their corner? I don’t get it. I’m just so disgusted by this entire situation, and I strongly believe that there is zero justification for how our neighbors acted.

      1. Sorry if this wasn’t clear: The point, heather, is to question whether or not its really true that no-one called the cops for help. And I really hope that MissionLocal can follow up on this part. I suspect people did call, but didn’t know what you have to say in order to get the cops to show up. On the other side, I’m appalled that no-one went out to assist the man after the attacker left. My experience is that we *do* help each other out better than than.

    5. Totally untrue. I call the police from time-time for things like drug dealing or just a bunch of underage kids drinking alcohol in the street. They do send patrol cars… Believe me, we are not under-resourced police-wise. We have available units to send to minor complaints…..

  16. Anyone who heard this and did nothing should be ashamed.

    Please consider moving. San Francisco does not need your kind.

  17. if true, this story is appalling. all these people quoted in the article said they heard his cries-but did NOTHING? thought they could see him breathing-and did NOTHING? saw people walking around him-and did NOTHING? shame on all of you.

    1. The story is true. This was my cousin who went out during the night for a pack of cigarettes! This is a terrible thing to happen to a man who was always kind and had a smile and a hug for everyone. We will miss him and we hope that future cries for help will NOT be ignored. I believe those who did nothing are just as guilty as those who killed him. Rest in Peace, Rick.

  18. I call the SFPD non-emergency number every once in awhile and have had really good response. I’m only a few blocks away from where this stabbing happened. I can’t believe that nobody could be bothered to just look out their window. Our neighbors are pretty vigilant and the police arrive sometimes within minutes. There was a fight outside our house one night around 3:30 a.m. and police responded almost immediately. This is shameful and tragic.

  19. What. The. Fuck. This neighborhood isn’t dying….it’s dead. I’ve called the cops AT LEAST a half a dozen times in the last few months (My criteria to call is if it sounds like someone is being hurt, they probably are going to need help), and it’s just effing great to know that my neighbors would in fact NOT do the same for me. People are awful, and I’ve pretty much had it with this city.

    1. So agreed with you there Heather. Don’t get me started. Oops already did! I did the same too. I even have the police station’s phone number on speed dial! haha
      Well, the number on Valencia St. Station.
      My blocks always in an alert for anything fishy. We have block parties all the time so that we have an watchful eye for each one of us living on our block. We also encouraged residents on the next block to come by and say hi.

      1. Good for you. That is what being a good neighbor is all about. I do the same thing. If I hear/see anything even remotely suspicious, I call the cops. 90% of trouble can be avoided with some prevention rather than waiting for sh*t to hit the fan and calling the police to clean it up….

        I know Julian street very well. This sounds like it is likely to be a drug/addiction-rlated medical problem rather than out-and-out stabbing or murder…. Still sad that no one called for help.

  20. This is sad but it’s the Mission! And that’s the fact!
    Everybody yaks about it after but nobody give a damn when it happened right in front of their building!
    What’s the point upsetting or being interviewed when the guy is already dead!

    “From what witnesses said, it was a slow, agonizing death.” Yes, thanks for the vivid statement! And what did you do? Nothing!!

    To me the real killer are the ones just look and do nothing and not the real stabber!

    Oh well, condolences to his family!


    1. Well, exactly! A watch program. Thats what they are all doing! Watch!
      I’ve been living in the Mission for 6 years now.
      A few months ago on a bright day light at 10 am, 2 elderly shop owners in the Mission was robbed and beaten. Anybody came to rescue? Nope!
      And the Muni stop with people standing was literally in front of their shop!