In the midst of a high-speed car chase, a San Francisco police SUV ran a red light, clipped a motorcycle it swerved to avoid and injured a child when it crashed into the former Lucca Ravioli’s storefront on the corner of Valencia and 22nd streets, witnesses said. The building’s large glass windows, awning and front door were destroyed.
Two people, one of whom was a child, were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the San Francisco Police Department said. The police department said a officers in a squad car patrolling Mission Street between 22nd and 23rd streets near 5:10 p.m. “observed a vehicle that was possibly involved in a violent crime.”
A witness said what followed was a high-speed pursuit.
“I was just sitting next to the stop sign, and a red car was flying through the stop sign, and the second after that, I saw a police cruiser going just as fast,” said Chris, who was on 22nd Street, on the west side of the intersection. The speeding red car was going “50 to 60 miles per hour” towards Valencia, he said.
The car sped down 22nd Street, Chris said, followed by “a police cruiser chasing it with lights on,” towards the intersection with Valencia.
Chris ran down 22nd following the chase and saw the police SUV had crashed into Lucca’s facade, he said. The red car, witnesses said, sped off west on 22nd Street. Police said they are still searching for the suspect.
Robert Reyes, who lives nearby and was standing on the corner, said he saw the entire incident. He was waiting to cross the street when a maroon Mercedes-Benz ran a red light on Valencia Street, he said, followed by the police SUV.
He said that the red car “slowed down” when it approached the intersection, before speeding up and fleeing down 22nd Street. The police SUV, sirens on, followed and ran the red light, striking a motorcyclist cruising on Valencia.
“The policeman was trying to get through, but then the motorcyclist, since he had the green light — he was going too fast to hear the sirens, so the policeman tried to avoid him, but he couldn’t, so that is why the vehicle is in there,” he said, pointing to the SUV embedded into Lucca’s storefront.
“He turned, trying to avoid him, but he clipped the motorcycle,” Reyes said, adding that the motorcyclist suffered “a good hit” from the squad car. “You can see what he tried to do, he tried to avoid the motorcyclist.”
Reyes added that, when both cars entered the intersection, they had slowed down to 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Jonathan of Aditi Indian, a restaurant across the street, said he was standing inside and saw the police SUV crash “straight into that building.”
“It hit the bike, and it went down the other way,” he said of the police car, adding that the motorcycle was “flung the other way” down the street. After the crash, the motorcycle lay flat on its side on 22nd Street, a few yards from the police SUV.
Jonathan also saw two people transported by ambulance, one of whom was a child.
Reyes said the child was standing on the corner near the storefront, and was “thrown back from the impact” of the crash. “The child was very close, but the impact was so strong, it blew the child back.” He said the child was not hit by the police SUV, but was instead “thrown to the ground.”
Reyes ran to Lucca and tried to help the crash victims. The child appeared “more startled” than hurt, Reyes said, but the motorcyclist seemed more seriously injured. The motorcyclist tried to stand up after the collision, but Reyes told him to lie down and await paramedics, he said.
Reyes also helped pull the police officer from the back of the SUV, and said the officer was dazed.
“When I grabbed him and pulled him out, you could see, he was shaken up,” he said. “He was shaking, he was shaking.”
Reyes said the officer was not transported by an ambulance, but instead put into a squad car, and police confirmed that no officers were seriously injured. SFPD said the case remains open and active.
Last month, a carjacking suspect, chased by a San Francisco sheriff’s deputy, crashed into a bus stop at 16th and Potrero streets, killing a bystander and injuring four others. The Sheriff’s Office did not say whether the deputy was engaged in a high-speed chase.
San Francisco police are only allowed to engage in high-speed pursuits in limited circumstances, as when someone is suspected of committing a violent felony or when an officer believes a suspect poses an imminent risk to the public.
The police SUV bored a hole into the storefront, smashing its glass windows and doors. The SUV took down the tiled beam above the front door, and a vertical beam supporting the awning, sinking into the shop’s gutted-out floor.
The Fire Department quickly erected a wooden structure to support the store’s awning. Broken glass panes lay littered around the corner, which was cordoned off. Valencia Street was closed for a block in both directions.
The 94-year-old Lucca Ravioli closed in 2019 and has been shuttered since; its new owner, Rory Lydon, has been shy to explain his intentions for the corner spot, but he is often seen working inside the store, standing at a makeshift wooden bar surrounded by comic books, speakers, and other knick-knacks.
The building itself is a historic resource, according to the city, which notes its “smooth stucco with ceramic tile” and “glazed transom at the storefront.”
Update, 10 p.m.: After a prolonged effort by firefighters, the police SUV was extracted from Lucca’s storefront.
Half-a-dozen firefighters worked to shore up the store’s facade and prevent it from collapsing after the crash, using a circular saw to cut wooden planks to size and fitting them under Lucca’s front awning.
They cleared the area around the SUV for a nearby tow truck and spent the better part of an hour attaching the SUV to the tow truck’s winch cables, slowly inching it out, and making adjustments every few seconds to ensure the SUV did not hit the awning and collapse it.
As the firefighters toiled, one man arriving on the scene shouted out, “Not Lucca! Why Lucca, of all places? It went through enough.”
Just before 10 p.m., the SUV was hoisted onto the tow truck and wheeled into the intersection. Cheers erupted from the bystanders gathered to watch.