In what appear to be separate instances of assault in the Mission, multiple victims say they know who attacked them — but have had no help in getting the police to arrest the perpetrators. One of the victims has given up. Another, severely beaten in a recent incident near the Mission District home where he has lived for more than a decade, lives in fear of being targeted again.
“If they haven’t arrested him, I’m going to continue with the fear that he will find me and want to attack me,” said Ramon Reyna, a 52-year-old restaurant worker who landed in the hospital with more than 20 stitches after a stranger hit and kicked him in the street last week.
Police say they are investigating the Sept. 20 attack against Reyna, and a January attack against Joseph Miller, but no arrests have been made.
Miller knows who attacked him. Witnesses allege that it was the same Rafael Navarro who allegedly attacked Clara Luz Diaz Oscan’s family last summer with a machete. But Miller and Diaz Oscan have all but given up on trying to get justice.
Miller, who no longer lives in the Mission, estimates he’s run into Navarro more than a dozen times since the attack that put him in the hospital. Diaz Oscan took out a restraining order against Navarro, but sees him all the time on her block. She crosses the street to avoid confrontation.
All these victims told Mission Local that they can identify the men who assaulted them, and would be willing to point them out if it would help get them off the street. Others, who have seen Navarro get violent, try to make accommodations to keep their distance and stay on good terms.
For Reyna, the Tuesday evening of Sept. 20 seemed like any other. He left the restaurant where he works as a food runner, drove home, parked his car, and got his chihuahua from his house near 18th and Valencia streets. It was nearly midnight, the time he generally takes the dog out for a walk.
Reyna was near the Women’s Building on 18th Street when a tall man with a backwards baseball cap and a large fluffy harnessed dog began pursuing Reyna and his dog. The man encouraged his dog to attack the chihuahua. The dog was uninterested, so the man took matters into his own hands.
“The dog didn’t attack, he didn’t obey him,” Reyna told Mission Local of the man. “He insisted and insisted about three times and then, since his dog didn’t attack, he started attacking my dog — I guess he wanted to kill it.”
Reyna said his priority was to save his pet, so it caught him by surprise when he was suddenly struck in the ear. He doesn’t remember the blows that followed, but his face was held together with stitches when he met with Mission Local days after the attack. In a post about the incident, Reyna’s son, Erick, said his father’s ear was partially detached, and that doctors said his father was “minutes from bleeding out on the sidewalk.”
The man who put Reyna in the hospital, stole his phone and broke his glasses has not been arrested. According to police, the investigation is still open. And this despite Reyna’s description of his attacker: A man of about 6 feet 2 inches, who looked to be in his 30s, wearing a backpack and a colorful blanket draped over his shoulders. He is seen clearly in the video footage Mission Local reviewed, which Reyna’s family tracked down from nearby security cameras.
What additional information is needed for police to track down these individuals is unclear.
In the case of his January attack, Miller has lost hope. He was jumped as he left a Valencia Street bar with his friends. Witnesses told him the attacker used a hammer.
“Just out of nowhere, I just got shoved from behind, and I kind of turned, and as I turned, I got hit in the head very hard with what I’m told is a hammer,” said Miller, who was walking near the corner of 16th and Valencia streets. “It was just kind of like, turn — and crack. And that was it.”
Miller remembered removing his beanie, and blood pouring down his face. He was taken to the hospital, where he got seven staples in his head.
But when he started asking for help from the San Francisco Police Department to press charges, and find out whether the man — who witnesses Miller later spoke with identified as Navarro, a regular near 16th and Valencia — was still out on the streets, Miller said he got nowhere.
“I couldn’t really get through to anyone,” Miller told Mission Local in the days after the incident. Just days after he was attacked, Miller saw Navarro in the street, and made a beeline for the police station to report his attacker’s whereabouts. He was told the matter was out of the officers’ hands, and he would have to wait out the investigative process.
Eight months later, Miller is still waiting. He feels the police don’t care. The police investigator assigned to his case doesn’t take his calls anymore. When Miller told him he knew who the attacker was and had witnesses to back him up, he was told to let the police do their job.
“I’ve basically become a nuisance to them, is what I’ve gathered,” Miller said. “He told me to stop doing my own investigating, ’cause it could hurt the case — and I said, ‘Well, what the fuck are you guys doing about it?’”
The DA’s office was slightly more helpful and provided him with access to victims services, and offered him connection to therapy if he wanted; they checked in with him as recently as last month. But Miller said it isn’t enough: “I’m kind of past all that now — I’m kind of just mad about it now, it’s like nothing is being done.”
Violent assaults are not rampant in San Francisco, particularly random attacks. So far this year, the SFPD’s crime dashboard shows 289 assaults in the Mission District — far fewer than in past years. In all of 2017, the police reported 541 assaults, and the number has generally declined since then. Only about 40 percent of these crimes are “cleared,” meaning they result in an arrest or charges.
These days, those who know Navarro from the neighborhood report seeing him with a dark-colored pit bull that he encourages to attack people in the street, Miller said. The dog, however, is docile, according to witnesses.
Even so, those who cross paths with Navarro say they are afraid.
“I’m terrified of this guy, when I’m working behind the bar and he walks into my work … he just walks up and down, trying to make everybody nervous,” said a bartender at Delirium, who asked not to be named out of fear for her safety. “I won’t make eye contact with him.”
The longtime bartender told Mission Local that she’s seen Navarro around for at least a couple years, and last year witnessed him attack a diner with a golf club near the restaurants at 16th and Valencia streets.
“I mean, he was beating him. The guy was just trying to block the hits,” she said. The argument began over Navarro’s speaker, she said, which the man asked him to turn down.
After the attack, no one called the police, and life moved on.
When she first heard the news that Reyna was attacked last week by a man with a dog, Casanova employee Lily immediately thought it might be Navarro. After all, she had just seen Navarro that same evening near her business two blocks away, with the dog she says he’s had with him recently.
But the man Reyna identified in security camera footage is not the one that Lily sees daily on her block. Navarro, 55, is shorter around 5 feet 5 inches, and middle-aged, with a darker complexion.
Lily, who was walking out of her bar with Miller the night he was attacked, said she also witnessed Navarro attempt to attack Diaz Oscan’s husband and son with a machete in August of 2021 after they allegedly asked him to turn down the music on the loudspeaker he carts around.
That night, the police arrived and booked the attacker on three counts of aggravated assault, SFPD Public Information Officer Kathryn Winters confirmed. Jail records from that day show Navarro was taken to county jail that day, but Lily said she remembers seeing him back on the corner the next day.
Diaz Oscan said she is frustrated because it seems that law enforcement doesn’t care about the damage Navarro has done to her family. Like Miller, she said she doesn’t have time for therapy, and takes medication to ease her anxiety.
“If he kills one of us, maybe then they’ll pay attention,” Diaz Oscan said in Spanish. She said everyone on her block near 16th and Valencia knows Navarro — and she knows of a neighbor and performing mariachis who have also been attacked.
DA spokesperson Randy Quezada said the DA’s office dismissed the case against Navarro after the machete incident, but did not say why.
Just 10 days later, Navarro appears in jail booking logs, having been arrested again for assault with a deadly weapon. Quezada did not respond to a request about whether Navarro was charged for that incident.
“It’s just kind of frightening to just walk — I walk by that corner on a pretty regular basis,” Miller said after he was attacked. “Just to know that there’s somebody out there just hitting people randomly with deadly objects on the head. It’s like, not good at all.”
Lily filed her own police report about Miller’s assault, but also hasn’t heard anything back. She believed the police had camera footage from nearby Panchita’s Pupusería #2, and didn’t understand how no action was being taken.
“I’m not even a police officer, and I can put two and two together,” she said. And so, she took matters into her own hands to smooth things over, and tries to avoid confrontation with Navarro.
For now, Reyna is hoping that the police find the man who assaulted him last week. His wife and daughter have been taking the dog out for walks while he recovers, and remains home from work.
“Now, the main thing is to know that they arrested him so as not to be afraid,” Reyna said in Spanish. “Because if not, if they haven’t arrested him, I’m going to continue with the fear that he will find me and want to attack me. If he met me, if he knows who I am, can he attack me again?”
Though Reyna said he has survived assaults in the past, none of his past encounters have been this severe.
“There are always people like that, but I’ve always felt safe because it’s my neighborhood. I know everyone here and I have always felt safe — until that day.”