police standoff

Hundreds of neighbors, protesters and bystanders stopped to watch what became a nearly eight-hour standoff between Vietnam War veteran James Craft and the San Francisco Police, after cops responded to a call at around 11:30 a.m. that Craft was wielding a metal pipe and acting “menacing.”

The situation unfolded near Craft’s apartment of 12 years, near 18th and San Carlos streets. Officers tried peacefully disarming Craft by talking to him through a megaphone and using “active listening.” A staff member from the Department of Public Health arrived a little before 7:30 p.m.

The scene broke up at around 7:35 p.m. after police officers were able to deploy two, six-foot metal poles to pin Craft against the wall and rush in to disarm him, according to the property manager, Arnel Garay. A neighbor who looked on called from his balcony to the crowd that Craft was all right and appeared to be taken to receive medical attention.

Read our coverage of the situation as it broke here:

2:15 p.m.: Police are attempting to disarm a man holding a metal pipe on 18th Street between Mission and Valencia. The area is currently taped off as around a dozen officers attempt to defuse the situation. It’s unclear what precipitated the call or whether the man has harmed anyone.

Police have been on the scene for more than an hour, according to an officer on the scene and a witness.

Bystanders observing from 18th and Mission streets are making it known to police officers that they are “watching” how the police handle the situation. Police have, so far, not drawn their firearms. Only one officer seems to be holding a “less-lethal” beanbag gun.

Mission Local’s Natalia Gurevich reports that the man holding the metal pipe is currently pacing back and forth, and a witness reported that the police have been talking to the man in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.

3:05 p.m.: David Soriano said he’s been watching the incident from a building near 18th and Lexington streets. He said it began around noon. He  does not know the man with pipe personally, but the man is a regular denizen of 18th Street. Soriano said he saw the man, whose name he didn’t know, continue to swing the metal object at around noon. The police arrived as the man continued.

During what Soriano described as an hours-long encounter, police have been trying to talk to the man, offering him food and water. “They’re trying to make him tired — they’re trying to bring him food,” Soriano said. “They’re talking to him about the Giants. They’re trying to talk to him.”

The man, however, has not been receptive to their entreaties.

3:15 p.m.: A couple dozen bystanders have gathered on the corner of 18th and Mission streets, yelling barbs at police and questioning their tactics. “Hey, you’re a cowardly piece of shit,” one man yelled at an officer, telling the officer that he “looks so good with his gun.”

But the police appear have been trying to peacefully de-escalate the situation for hours.

3:25 p.m.: Police spokesman Officer Robert Rueca told Mission Local on the scene that police received a call at around 11:30 a.m. regarding a man holding a metal pipe and acting “menacing” in the area of 18th and San Carlos streets. Police have been with the man ever since in an attempt to “assist” him. “We want to resolve it as peacefully as possible,” Rueca said. 

Indeed, police spokesman Officer Adam Lobsinger said that officers have been trying to allow the man the “time and space” to “lead the conversation.” And they’re using “active listening” to defuse the situation. 

Rueca said that, nevertheless, the man is still making “threatening statements” and has a “potential for violence.”  

4:25 p.m.: The individual with the pipe has been identified as James Craft by the manager of the building on 18th and San Carlos streets, where Craft has apparently lived for 12 years.

Arnel Garay, the manager, said that Craft is a Vietnam War veteran in his 60s who largely keeps to himself, wakes up very early in the morning, pays his rent on time — and, as a part of his lifestyle, carries around a wooden table leg. Garay guessed Craft likely carries the leg around “for his protection.” Garay said Craft is not violent.

“He doesn’t bother anybody,” Garay said. “He doesn’t like anybody bothering him.” 

Garay does not know why Craft was carrying around a metal object today. But Garay surmised that this made someone feel uncomfortable, and the police were summoned, leading to the standoff.

“I don’t understand why they have a problem with the stick,” Garay said, noting that the problem might only be that Craft is not being compliant. 

If the cops were to walk away, Garay guessed, “he’d probably just go back to his room.”

4:45 p.m.: A witness watching the standoff from their window, who asked to remain anonymous, said that at around 11:52 a.m., a couple of police officers approached Craft, who was holding a pipe but “seemingly not doing much.” More officers arrived shortly after.

“At this point I am on my roof and counted 54 uniformed cops and two negotiators in sight,” the person said around 4:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m.: A Black Lives Matter march that had been working its way down Valencia Street caught wind of the police standoff with Craft, and around 100 people outside the perimeter began chanting “Let him go! Let him go!” and “Social workers, not police!”

The standoff has entered its seventh hour.

6:22 p.m.:

One of the Black Lives Matter organizers who stopped by, Maryann Jenkins, told Mission Local that “This was not part of the plan.” While they were on the march, they got texts from community organizers and decided to come.

Protesters asked each other to quiet down after someone said that Craft was growing “anxious” from the shouting.  The police continued to ask Craft about whether he wanted food and discussed pizza with him. Organizers moved the group to a parking lot at 18th and Valencia streets to give Craft some space.

Officers implored Craft to put the bar down and asked if he would like a warm blanket and food.

6:56 p.m.:

Officers tried to coax Craft to a patrol car. They appeared to be setting off an alarm, though it’s unclear how or from what, while they asked him to come to the car.

“Drop the bar, James,” officers said. “We’re here to help.”

7:00 p.m.:

Tatiana, 15, came from a protest that started on Duboce Ave. but decided to stay here at 18th and Lexington streets when she discovered what was going on.

“People in the community have to stand up for each other,” Tatiana said. “We let so many things go unseen, so we have to protect each other.”

7:21 p.m.:

The crowd erupted into cheers as a staff member from the San Francisco Department of Public Health arrived and signaled his presence to the crowd. The officers responding had been relieved by a new shift minutes ago.

7:46 p.m.:

Following a nearly eight-hour standoff, the situation finally had been resolved. A neighbor called out from his balcony that Craft is alive and will receive medical attention.

Garay, who had been watching the whole incident from San Carlos Street and Sycamore Street, told Mission Local that in order to de-escalate the situation, they tried to pin Craft against the wall using long six-foot metal poles until he let go of the bar.

“They did it without no conflicts,” Garay said. “It was long poles like a T that pinned him up so they restrained him. Then the police rushed in and grabbed him. They did it without no incidents.”

Garay also said that a popping sound heard earlier by our reporter was allegedly pepper spray.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Couldn’t they just throw a giant net or something and take him into the hospital? These stand-offs seem to drag on forever and are a danger to everyone involved.

  2. As someone that relate to this and other vets experience thanks for sharing your thoughts and appreciate your service M. P. R. Howard.

  3. Mceage,

    Betting the cops were monitoring this thread for good advice and when the
    majority here said they should move the 54 cops standing in front of the guy
    and replace em with a couple of social workers they listened.

    Don’t that make you feel good?

    If I’m right, I mean.


    Go Giants!


  4. As a Viet Nam veteran, I can attest to the kind of demons that can haunt the spirit.

    You come back with a hole in your soul and nothing seems to heal it.

    Those protestors DID NOT help the situation. They should have kept their mouths shut and didi out the area.

    As for the social workers in this City, many are unequipped to deal with the nightmares of veterans are forced to most of the time.

    So don’t condemn the cops for this situation. They kept it contained and nobody went home in a body bag.

  5. Swinging around a metal pipe on the sidewalk is not a good choice, even if it is “part of his lifestyle”. Good on SFPD for taking the time and distance to resolve this the way they did.

    1. I agree with aapi’s comment. I do wish this would have been resolved sooner because 7 hours is too long for everyone to be out there. I’m glad Mr. Craft & no one else was harmed during the standoff.

      1. And what a bunch of jackasses who showed up without knowing anything about the situation, and started yelling and screaming when a man was having a serious mental and emotional break down. Marching around and going off like children having tantrums is a disgrace to the BLM movement, and makes life worse for all citizens.

  6. Fortunately no one was hurt.

    The question is why did the social worker from DPH not get there until 7:30. Should SFPD immediately contact social workers or should dispatch notify social workers when the Initial call came in at 11:30 or soon thereafter once a standoff begins?

    1. There was a social worker on scene well before the other one showed up towards the end. SFPD consulted with the DPH member. But ultimately decided to leave SFPD in charge.

      SF residents want social workers to handle these calls. But you have to ask yourself: would you confront a person with a mental illness holding a metal pipe? DPH was given a chance. They chose to leave it to SFPD.

      How does city leadership respond to that?

  7. My first Mission home was 112 San Carlos, surfed the back deck there during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

    Are the pigs trying to prove their irrelevance through such displays of overkill of force for such a minor incident?

    This could have been resolved by 3 social workers in a fraction of the time with none of the overtime.

    File under: #DefundSFPD

    1. Marcos,

      You have too good a vocabulary to be using the
      word ‘pigs’ in your discourse.

      It’s crude and should be beneath you.


  8. I’m surprised the cops don’t have a Spyder Man-type net that can corral a suspect and immobilize them from lashing out. Such a tool would seem to have been effective with Mario Woods, and now this fellow.

    Oh well, why waste a good opportunity for officer OT.

    Thankfully no one was injured (Craft, SFPD, and civilians on the street). However, neither police nor protesters appeared to be keeping 6′ physical distance; so lets hope no one was harmed in this whole sad show.

  9. Kudos to cops,

    Pipe man didn’t hurt anyone and has references and receipts.

    Cops didn’t hurt anyone.

    Leave a couple of undercover and go back on patrol?

    Go Giants!