Thomas Baxter, the 70-year-old charged with attempted murder in a stabbing on Sunday night, said today from the San Francisco County Jail that it was unbelievable that he was arrested for “defending [himself] against the scum of the earth.”
On Sunday evening, Baxter stabbed one man, leaving him with life-threatening injuries, and pepper-sprayed two other people on 16th Street near Albion Street, just a block away from where Baxter lives in a single-room-occupancy hotel.
Tuesday morning he spoke about the San Francisco Bay Area, which he said is “controlled by the Jewish and Chinese drug mafia.” Despite the jarring statement, he seemed sharp and collected as he peered through the prison window that separated us at the San Francisco County Jail.
Dressed in his orange jumpsuit, he appeared patient as he waited for an officer to adjust the telephone for the brief interview, which was cut off after about 10 minutes by the jail’s legal services.
Baxter said that he was making a purchase at Randa’s Market, just east of the Delirium bar on Albion, Sunday evening when a man walked in who he described as “shit-faced drunk,” belligerent, obnoxious and aggressive. Others in the neighborhood know the man as Simon.
The store’s owner, Mike, today told Mission Local that his brother — behind the counter at the time — asked Simon to leave.
Baxter said the person behind the counter told Simon multiple times to get out. Baxter said that he was scared, and he had his money out when the man sidled toward him. Mike, who had watched his store’s footage, said that Simon left, and Baxter followed outside, in front of the store.
Baxter said the man came toward him, and Baxter says he then pepper-sprayed the man with Mace.
“I don’t remember what happened next. It was such a blur,” Baxter said.
Another man, whom neighbors referred to as Simon’s friend, Bruno, walked into the scene.
“Next thing you know, I stabbed him,” Baxter said, referring to Bruno. “And he kept going, other people kept going, and now I’m fighting three people. Some lady with a cane whacks me.”
Because of that, Baxter said, he walked into the middle of the street, where, he added, he was “in defensive mode” when police arrived, surrounded him and ultimately arrested him. He was later booked on charges of attempted homicide, two counts of unlawful use of pepper spray, battery on a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
Although Baxter relayed the stabbing incident as if it happened inside the store, it appears that it happened outside, according to Mike, the store owner.
Mike told Mission Local that he reviewed the video footage from the store’s cameras and he heard about the incident from his brother, who was working behind the counter on Sunday evening.
He said that on the video, a man — Simon — came in while Baxter was making a purchase. The man appeared to say something, but because the footage has no audio, it’s impossible to know what. Mike said his brother told Simon to leave the store because he was being disruptive.
Mike said Simon walked out and Baxter followed him and attempted to kick him. He said that it then appears from the tape that Baxter used pepper spray on Simon and several others just outside the store.
Baxter was then engaged with several people — Simon, Bruno and a woman with a cane. The woman with the cane, Mike said, added that Baxter was shouting at Simon to get out.
Mike said he recalled that, in the footage, Baxter can be seen holding a knife or knives, but the stabbing occurred outside the camera’s field of vision.
Baxter said the police who booked him told him nothing and did not interview him about the incident, so when they asked questions, he would just say, “Baseball” — referring to an unnamed movie, he added — to let them know he didn’t like what was going on.
“That noncooperation, I believe, got me here in the position I’m in,” he said. “That’s why I did it. But it also led to them not liking me very much.”
Witnesses told Mission Local on Sunday that Baxter got down on the ground after police arrived and told him to put his weapons down, and that a quick arrest followed.
Neighbors and acquaintances of Baxter said they knew the 70-year-old as a peaceful person who keeps to himself. One neighbor insisted that Baxter must have been provoked.
“Thomas is a really nice guy. Very quiet, very reserved,” said Mike, from Randa’s Market, who would see Baxter drop into his shop regularly. “We’d do a casual greeting — he doesn’t say much.”
Mike also described the two men who were attacked as nice, but loud when drunk. A resident nearby said that Bruno likes to get drunk and fight. Another neighbor said that the two victims of Baxter’s alleged attack are known for loitering, drinking and bothering passersby on the block. Baxter described them similarly to the latter, saying that they often yell and mock-fight when drunk.
The neighbor said that her friend, a witness who she’d prefer to keep anonymous, saw the two men verbally harassing Baxter before he attacked them.
That resident told Mission Local that on Sunday evening, her friend had walked around the block to avoid being verbally harassed by the two men, and had seen the two bullying Baxter, yelling at him and calling him a degenerate.
“Those are huge guys — there’s no way a sane person would mess with these guys — and he’s a skinny old man,” the resident, who lives nearby, said. “I feel that the guy was afraid and scared, to have run to run in the middle of the street where everybody sees you.”
Several longtime residents who live in the vicinity, including a weekend doorman at nearby Delirium, said they didn’t recognize a picture of Baxter, but two business owners in the area recognized him and only had kind words to say.
“All the time, he comes here,” said a business owner near 16th and Valencia streets, adding that Baxter usually wore the same jacket and pants as he is seen wearing in the photo. He never seemed to bother anyone, the business owner said. “He’s a good guy — a nice guy.”
He said he spoke about the incident to his coworker, who echoed his sentiments about Baxter.
Another resident who knows Baxter described him as someone who “just keeps to himself and doesn’t talk to anybody.”
“It’s really sad — I really feel for the guy,” Mike said. “I don’t know if he has a mental illness or anything. From what I see, he’s like a normal human being.”
The police and San Francisco General Hospital did not respond to a request for an update on Bruno’s condition at press time.
While police previously stated that Bruno had suffered life-threatening injuries, Mike said that a friend of Bruno’s stopped by the store and said Bruno had posted on social media from the hospital saying that he was okay. Mission Local is working to confirm this.
Update: “A man who was transported to [San Francisco General Hospital] on Sunday evening suffering from a stab wound was admitted, remains at the hospital and is in good condition,” the San Francisco Department of Public Health told Mission Local on Sept. 28.