Mohammed Nuru
former Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Mohammed Nuru, the former Public Works director ousted in early 2020 and charged in a federal corruption scandal, was booked into County Jail No. 1 at 4:44 p.m. this afternoon after he allegedly pulled a knife on someone at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank .

San Francisco Police responded to a call around 11:18 a.m., in which a victim told officers he was approached by an alleged assailant, who produced a knife and demanded the victim’s property, according to a police statement.

The police did not initially link Nuru to the incident or even confirm an arrest, but Nuru was booked on second-degree robbery charges this afternoon, according the the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department website.

Nuru’s involvement was confirmed by Keely Hopkins, communications manager of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Hopkins also confirmed that the property under question was a bag of chips. 

According to Hopkins, Nuru — who has spent time volunteering at the food bank since being charged by the feds and leaving city employment — had approached the alleged victim in the break room. Nuru was purportedly holding a small kitchen knife, and the victim was eating a bag of chips. Nuru allegedly said this was all meant in jest, but the victim told police he felt threatened and left the food bank in fear of his safety. 

The investigation is still active, and this story will be updated as information becomes available. 

Nuru, who was named Public Works director by Mayor Ed Lee in 2011, is facing a potential 20-year federal prison sentence on corruption charges, and an additional five for allegedly lying to FBI agents. He had been free on a $2 million bond.

Ongoing probes by both the feds and City Attorney have led to a bevy of charges against both public officials and private citizens and the resignations of several department heads including Nuru, former Department of Building Inspection boss Tom Hui; former Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly; and several others.  

Update, June 3, 5 p.m.: After spending the night in jail, Nuru was not arraigned: The District Attorney has declined to press charges.

Spokeswoman Rachel Marshall said a witness corroborated Nuru’s account that he held up a kitchen knife and demanded a third man’s chips as a joke, of sorts.

“It seems to be be a pretty inappropriate and misguided attempt at humor,” she said. “But there’s nothing showing he tried to take the chips and he didn’t take them.”

No video exists of the incident.


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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

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The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. It says right in the story that it was done as a joke. And all the crybabies with no backbone go nuts. Now we all know Nuru’s a criminal (sorry, allegedly for all the PC idiots out there). We all know what happened. Why is this even a news story? Why were overtaxed police officers called to deal with this nonsense?

  2. Nuru has buddies in SF Police. I’m sure no one wanted to press charges for fear Nuru who is likely singing to the feds would name of few names in local law enforcement. I doubt if finding a witness in his defense wasn’t too difficult. It could have been all a stupid joke. Like his volunteering to try to make himself look good in the eyes of the judge is a joke. Just like he looks at his on-going federal investigation as a big joke. But I ask you, how many times have you approached a co-worker with a knife and demanded their chips? Joke or not, Nuru doesn’t seem to know the difference between right or wrong. It’s sad that there is no justice for the person who this big man approached with a knife. Anyone else would be in jail for that. But this would violate his bond, so his buddies made sure it went away. Must be nice to steal money from tax payers and pay-off or bribe others with it.

  3. Interesting that we have volunteered in that same food bank and we were never given knives of any size.

  4. The man has a personality disorder. The frightening thing is how many more are in positions of power, especially appointed positions like he was? Because it is often the most manipulative who gets the position…. great system!

  5. It’s completely possible that this potato chip stick-up was meant as a little break room humor and some whiny little crybaby with the chips got their panties in a twist over it and narced on Mohammed. Doesn’t add up.

    “The investigation is still active…” Sheesh–I guess we’ll just have to let the chips fall where they may.

  6. I guess the pressure of doing community service to salvage his reputation and lighten his sentence when the time comes proved too much for him.

  7. does he know how to do anything legally? that people can just go to a store and buy chips with money from their pocket?

  8. He broke bail conditions on a $2m bond, that’s the kicker. Getting out isn’t going to be easy.