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.