Folsom Street between 15th and 16th streets on Friday morning, hours after a man had been found dead by homeless residents. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

The first time the ambulance was called for the dead man on Folsom Street, he was still alive, according to witnesses. Two hours later, when the same witnesses called a second time, he had already died.

Still, the ambulance did not come.

“He was halfway on the sidewalk, really twisted,” said a man staying in a tent on Folsom Street between 15th and 16th streets who identified himself as Roc.

He and a friend found the man lying on the sidewalk sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. on Thursday night, he said.

It wasn’t until Friday morning, however, that medics arrived on scene, according to a police spokesperson. An officer with the University of California was flagged down about the dead body at 7:23 a.m., said Officer Giselle Talkoff. Medics arrived soon after and pronounced the man dead at 7:37 a.m.

The victim, an unidentified white male between 20 and 40 years old, seemed to have died of natural causes and foul play is not suspected, the police said. An exact cause of death is not yet known. The Medical Examiner is not releasing his name until next of kin is notified.

Roc said the man had been alive when he first came upon him lying halfway off the sidewalk and partway under a car late Thursday night.

“I said, ‘Hey man, quit playing!’” Roc said. He and a female friend went up to the man and felt his pulse. He was still alive, Roc said. His friend called the ambulance and then left the man alone. But two hours later, the pair saw the man was in the same spot and took his pulse again.

“He was dead,” he said, adding that the man’s hands were deep red and that there was some blood around him. He called the ambulance this time, but still no one came. “They never came when she called him, they never came when I called him. It’s a fucked-up way to go.”

Other witnesses said they had seen the man hours earlier, alive and walking near Mission and 14th streets. Cessandre Watkins, who was staying in a tent around the corner on 16th Street with Kimberley Walley, her cousin-in-law and one of the now-homeless victims of the 29th and Mission fire, said she had come upon him walking around with a backpack earlier in the day.

“He said he was going through some shit, someone stole his roxies,” Watkins said, referring to oxycodone pills. Roc said the dead man had some heroin bags on him, but this could not be confirmed.  

A few hours later after midnight, Watkins came upon the man lying on the sidewalk, now dead. She also said his body was twisted, and that his face was purplish-black.

“His neck was on the curb, his was face down, his elbow was back behind him in a twisted way,” she said. “One of his legs — it wasn’t the right way.”

She had recognized him from his “very colorful shoes,” she said. Roc too mentioned the distinctive footwear.

“Brand new Reeboks, he had some real nice Reeboks,” Roc said. “I’d never seen shoes like that. Real colorful.”

Watkins said that he was “still warm” when her friend felt him for a pulse around midnight on Thursday. He then went to Wooden Nickel bar at the corner of 15th and Folsom streets to call the police, but she left and did not see the police come.

Walley, the cousin and fire victim, did. She said she was coming back to her tent this morning some eight hours after witnesses said the man had died and saw a white van and police tape on the scene.

One neighbor on Folsom Street said he saw the coroner load the dead man onto the ambulance and drive him away near 8 a.m. this morning as he left his home for work.

“It was one of those scenes where the coroners were wrapping up the body in white sheets and stitching it down to the little gurney thing and loading it up,” said Carl Petersen, who tipped off Mission Local to the incident.

Homeless encampments line the blocks around the corner of 16th and Folsom streets. Roc and others frequently sell their wares on the sidewalk outside a fenced-off bakery there, and dozens of tents line Folsom Street and 16th Street in all directions.

Petersen said he frequently hears yelling from the tents late at night and that the encampments have been constant for some four years. He and other neighbors said the police swept the tent encampments a month ago, but that they popped up again about a week ago.

But none of the homeless people on the block said they had ever seen the dead man before Thursday, though most are familiar with one another.

Watkins, for her part, was disturbed by the death. She said she did not want to be near him when she found him, and that it was her first up-close encounter with a dead man.

“That close, to where I could touch him — yeah,” she said, that was her first body.

Update: The man was identified as 32-year-old Joseph Schroeder on Monday by the Medical Examiner. His city of residence was unknown.

Update, September 21, 2016: The Department of Emergency Management said that they received no 911 calls about the incident on the evening of September 8 or the early morning of September 9, when a witness said he called. The first call they received was the following morning near 7 a.m., the department said.

Folsom Street between 15th and 16th streets. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.
Folsom Street between 15th and 16th streets. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

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Joe Rivano BarrosSenior Editor

Senior Editor. Joe was born in Sweden and spent his early childhood in Chile, before moving to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating, before spending time as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. That’s some real Pulitzer-worthy stuff there … Did our intrepid reporter bother to fact check ANY of these wild statements? Oh silly me. Who wants to let some real facts get in the way of this outstanding “journalism”.

  2. As I am not a citizen of your city, I do not understand the politics involved with homeless people, Mr. Campos, or other actions concerning the will of the people there. What I simply see is that a man lay on the sidewalk for possibly up to 16 hours unconscious but alive. And after several phone calls to 911 from people who saw him and checked his pulse, no EMT’s, ambulance, medical assistance arrived on the scene until 8 AM the following morning. Why am I reading about people (other than this man) dying from delayed EMT service and at the same time the SF emergency medical personnel and administrators are bemoaning the fact that it takes 20 minutes to get to a scene of a medical emergency—saying that 20 minutes is TOO LONG. If 20 minutes is too long, then what am I conclusions can be drawn from a wait of 16 hours? When did medical assistance get caught up in politics? Did someone in charge put homeless people on the lowest priority for getting help? And if so, how did medical personnel or the dispatcher know that this man was homeless or not? Shouldn’t they have gone to Folsom Street and checked the situation out? Was there not a big festival on Folsom Street on 9/8, when he collapsed (or was pushed down) to the cement? Does San Francisco not have emergency medical personnel on hand for large street festivals? Some countries are so poor and have such tenuous health services that people step over the bodies of the hundreds of dead people lying on sidewalks. Never thought I would read about such things (and just not this particular case) happening in the USA. I’d be pretty embarrassed if I was one of the people running the city. I hope someone writes a letter or an editorial that challenges some of these people in charge. If this were my son, I would sue the city of San Francisco for discrimination and contributing to a death.

    1. Kathlyn,Hope you don’t take this the wrong way. You cone off as a white priveleged racist. You say sue the City of San Francisco like it’s and individual. Your really saying is sue the people of San Francisco. most of us are hard working minorities just,trying to get by. Your ideas only make things like rent more expensive for minorities. Mexicans come first in this town. Homeless get no respect or dignity. There sole purpose is to provide government jobs. Homeless are the pawns in the government employees game of chess. End pensions and you will end homelessness. Please do not vote for Trump. I am begging you Sr.

    2. @Kathryn: You’re right, you clearly don’t understand the climate in San Francisco and what has become one of the worst housing and homeless crises in the nation. Medical assistance is caught up in politics to the extent that they need the help of politicians for funding and resources. This is not a problem that is unique to San Francisco, but is exacerbated by the public health crisis that the homeless population has caused. It doesn’t take a genius or even someone very familiar with the situation in SF to figure that out, simply someone who has thought about the world outside of Iowa for longer than five minutes.

      Should an EMT have checked on this man sooner? Ideally, yes. Unfortunately they simply don’t have the resources to do so. This situation was bound to happen sooner or later given the drugs that are running rampant throughout the encampments.

      1. I am simply someone who has thought about the world outside of Iowa for 5 minutes and longer. I am not wrapped in cotton batting. No I am not a genius, but my point all along is simply this essential question; why would it take emergency services 10 hours to arrive at a scene of a death on the sidewalk. These EMTs pride themselves (yes I have been doing research) that they can get to a call site in 20 minutes or less. They want to make that 10 minutes. If they can cut minutes of their response time they can surely cut hours off. There is a special number to call for assistance with presumably homeless people. There is a new office for the concerns of the homeless. SF is attempting to work on this problem. The number to call is 311. I sense in your response a bit of blame put on the tent folks themselves. Where are they to go? My comments still pertain to rapid medical response. This is a requirement of all cities–and all have homeless. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the resources are there for the majority of city residents, but not for others.
        I am not voting for Trump. That guy would have all citizens in tents.

  3. I feel sorry for the residents who have to put up with this day in and day out. The city turns a blind eye to the plight of the taxpayers who foot a very large bill (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year) to take care of this issue. Jane Kim’s claim to fame is to put porta potties in our neighborhoods and let the encampments flourish. that’s a band-aid on a broken leg approach. the problem is getting worse, SFPD doesn’t make arrests because the DA won’t prosecute, and crime, drugs and prostitution are rampant. They want to make an area where the drug addicts can use their drugs. how is this helping anything – not helping them get off the substance that probably led to their homelessness, but instead giving a nod to just go ahead and continue on. Meanwhile, the city has its hand out again for MORE tax money to help deal with this issue. check out the fb blog “manpiles of SF” and “filthySF” on tinder.

  4. Another victim of Campos and and the other “progressive” supervisors who would rather the homeless have the “freedom” to live on the streets rather than compelling them to drug treatnent and shelter. It’s time for SF citizens to stand up and vote out the current zany lawmakers who would rather follow their own narrow, idealistic political agendas rather than the will of the people.

  5. Writing from Iowa, the original home of the man found on Folsom St. in San Francisco. Someone please tell me the possible reason for 10? hours to pass after several phone calls made to 911 for the EMT’s to arrive. The man was breathing when the first call was made. He had his possessions and shoes. He lay in that spot overnight and was dead when the EMT’s arrived. All of his possessions were gone. Stolen. What possible excuse can be made for such a long wait for assistance? Why did EMTs respond only after a security OFFICER called–after many other people had called 911 before him? What is the problem with your city’s response teams? This is inexcusable. Even if he was homeless, he was still a citizen, a person, with rights to quick medical intervention. I am disgusted.

    1. Simple, they get thousands of calls a day and only have a couple dozen ambulances. They need to prioritize their calls. Kinda like a homeless person sleeping on your porch. SF usually has 300 calls at a time. They go down the list 1 by 1. Can take a day or two. We have too many homeless people.

    2. In all likelihood, EMS didn’t know what to do with the call. There is no address on that side of the street for the entire block. There is a muni garage (city bus system) that occupies the entire block, but the address is on the opposite side of the block. They may have dismissed the call just on that basis. If they did send an ambulance out, they probably didn’t see the body and then left. It would be very hard to distinguish between one of the many homeless persons sleeping on the street and someone in distress. I have trouble telling the difference during the day and this was overnight. Sorry for his loss.

  6. Drugs, poverty and death all championed by David Campos – daily reminder of how horrible he has been for the Mission and all of District 9. IMPEACH CAMPOS!

      1. Well, I will back up that comment. It’s true. This stuff seldom used to happen, and now it’s happening all the time. Campos has been a disaster, and his hand picked head of staff Hilary Ronen, will be just more of the same. What else are we to do with these news stories? He allows the problems to fester, people call 911 about passed out bodies near the tents all the time, the authorities stop responding, and now a guy is dead. It all fits together, sadly.