The Bayview man shot and killed yesterday afternoon by San Francisco police officers, 41-year-old Ryant Bluford of San Francisco, was known as “Peanut” to friends and family. They recalled him as a loving father, brother, cousin and friend — while acknowledging the violent crime in his past.
Neighbors interviewed Wednesday night and Thursday morning said Bluford struggled with mental illness and had a disdain for the police, the result of more than a decade spent in prison for various serious offenses.
Bluford was convicted in the 2006 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in San Francisco, and spent more than a decade in prison as a result. He was again charged, in 2022, for domestic violence and sexual assault.
Neighbors described the shooting as a tragedy.
“He had four kids and a wife, two were twins. He did the best he could,” said a friend of Bluford’s, who gave his name as Tyke, saying Bluford’s mental health worsened after time in prison. “He was in the pen for 12 years; he had some mental issues from that.”
Bluford was captured on video Wednesday, July 26, pacing in the intersection of Catalina Street and Fairfax Avenue in Bayview as a trio of police officers aimed their pistols at him from behind an SUV. In the video, he shouts and waves his arms, perhaps 10 or 15 yards away from the officers. Bystanders shout, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot him!” as the officers yell, “Put your hands up!”
Bluford then aims what appears to be a pistol at the officers, and is shot down in a hail of bullets. Police have not yet officially confirmed whether a weapon was recovered from the scene, but a police source tells Mission Local that Bluford did have a real firearm, and it was recovered. Bluford’s friends and family also said he had a gun, and fired once at the officers; they pointed on Thursday to a chalk circle on the street, where they said the casing from Bluford’s bullet had landed.
Police have not confirmed whether Bluford fired a shot.
At least eight shots rang out in total, and area residents said their homes were struck by gunfire. An employee at Hope SF Wellness Center, a community space just steps away from where Bluford was shot, reported that their car was struck by a bullet — then taken by the police for evidence.
The San Francisco Police Department said plainclothes officers with the Community Violence Reduction Team, formerly the Gang Task Force, were in Bayview on Wednesday, attempting to arrest a man around 2:30 p.m.
It is unclear how Bluford became a target, but friends and family said Bluford tried to interfere in the police arrest. “There were kids fighting, the cops came to detain them and he was standing up for [the kids],” explained Mika, a family friend. Another said Bluford yelled at officers while they were attempting their arrest.
It is unclear if any of the officers on the scene had been through Crisis Intervention Training.
In a statement, SFPD said that Bluford “approached and engaged” the officers making an arrest. Two uniformed officers then arrived on scene and noticed Bluford with “what appeared to be a firearm.” Officers then called for backup — a “10-25” — according to a police source. Immediately before the shooting, at least six squad cars were seen racing down Mission Street to the scene.
Bluford was transported to San Francisco General Hospital and died there, according to police.
Candles lit, chalk circles drawn
At the Bayview intersection, Bluford’s family lit candles. They described Peanut as a man who had been through the wringer, and criminal records show past convictions for rape and other violent crimes.
He had a fearful association with police, neighbors said, one borne from a lifetime of negative experiences dealing with law enforcement: According to criminal records, Bluford was charged with kidnapping, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, and various other crimes in 2006; he was incarcerated in 2008, according to criminal records, and friends and family said he spent more than a decade in prison.
Then in 2022, he was charged again, with domestic violence, sexual assault, and criminal threats. It was not immediately clear if he was convicted and imprisoned for these alleged crimes.
“You have to think about the kind of trauma someone has experienced with the police,” said one neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. “He looked done, driven to suicide by cop.”
“He had a lot of mental health issues,” said another anonymous neighbor. “He had a family. He loved his kids. A lot of people around here have mental issues.”
That neighbor, for her part, wished there had been a non-violent response initially to de-escalate the situation — or at least a less-lethal one.
“It’s like there’s no logic. They don’t ask what’s going on, they don’t even think to just ask. They need more training with people with mental health issues,” she said. “When it comes to African Americans, they use force and think later. Even if they felt he was a threat, they could have Tased him or shot him in the leg.”
San Francisco police, however, do not carry Tasers. And are not trained to shoot-to-wound.
Since 2000, 19 of the 61 people shot and killed by SFPD were Black — 31 percent; 18 of them were Black men. That rate is disproportionate to the city’s population: Black people make up about five percent of San Francisco.
% city population vs % fatally shot
Race and ethnicity
% city population vs % fatally shot
Chart by Will Jarrett. Up-to-date as of July 27, 2023.
On Wednesday evening, eight chalk circles were drawn on Fairfax Avenue, presumably the sites of recovered shell casings. Bullets struck at least one unit nearby, leaving holes in an exterior screen, reportedly missing the home’s occupant by a few inches.
Two other circles were drawn on the ground on Catalina Street, possibly the sites of Bluford’s body and gun.
About a dozen police officers and investigators with the District Attorney’s Office canvassed the scene Thursday morning, attempting to interview witnesses. Darby Williams, the head of the DA’s Independent Investigative Bureau, which probes police shootings, was on scene leading the investigation.
The San Francisco Police Department, as required by city law, will hold a community town hall within 10 days to present its report of the police shooting, including body-camera footage and other evidence.