SF police shoot man wielding 2 butcher knives

San Francisco Chronicle
By Demian Bulwa and Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer

Two men died -- one after being shot by police and another after being stabbed in his apartment -- in the South of Market neighborhood this morning in possibly connected incidents.

The man killed by police was shot around 4:30 a.m. after he came toward two officers wielding two large butcher knives, said Sgt. Neville Gittens. The other victim, a man who lived at a low-income housing building about a block away, was stabbed in his studio apartment around 4 a.m., according to the building's owner and police.

The Medical Examiner's office has not yet released the identity of the man who was shot, pending notification of his family.

Authorities identified the stabbing victim as 59-year-old Marvin Harris of San Francisco.

The incident involving police began when officers patrolling the area of Townsend and Seventh streets came across a man acting suspiciously near a white Jeep Cherokee, according to Gittens.

Police had been patrolling the area because of a recent spate of commercial and car burglaries, he said.

Officers observed the man leaning into the driver side of the Jeep, and when officers went to investigate, the man ran around the vehicle to the passenger side, Gittens said.

When he rounded the car, Gittens said, the suspect was carrying two large butcher knives.

"Police ordered him to drop the knives. He continued to approach them. They ordered him to drop the knives again, and he was still approaching them," Gittens said.

Gittens said at least one officer fired at least one shot, striking the suspect. The man was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police discovered two people sitting in the Jeep and took them to a police station for questioning, Gittens said. Police don't know the relationship between them and the man who was shot.

Around the same time and just two blocks away, at a 65-unit low-income apartment building at 785 Brannan St., a man was stabbed to death in his unit on the ground floor.

Theressa Pickens, 50, who lives down the hall from the victim, said she was awakened sometime after 4 a.m. by screams and the sound of a body hitting the floor.

"I thought someone was fighting. ... I heard him come out of his room into the hallway -- he was screaming, 'Help, help,' and that's when he fell," said Pickens. "I heard him hit the floor."

Pickens, a guest clerk at a nearby single-room occupancy building, said she opened her door and saw her neighbor on the floor, naked except for a shirt that had ridden up around his neck.

"That's when he started throwing up blood," she said, adding that he was shaking.

Tommy Wilson, 49, another neighbor and a friend of the victim, came out of his apartment when he heard screams and a loud thud.

Wilson, who also saw a lot of blood, said he asked Harris, "Marvin, is that you? He said, 'Yeah.'''

Harris had moved into the building about a month ago and lived alone, Pickens said. He had borrowed eggs once, but she didn't know him well, she said.

"It was horrible, it was horrible. I don't know what happened to the man. I haven't been able to go to sleep, seeing that in my head," Pickens said, adding that she didn't see any obvious wounds.

"All I saw was blood coming out of his mouth," she said.

Wilson said he had known Harris for years from another low-income building, and that he was disabled and did not work.

"We just talk about the ladies," he said of his relationship with Harris, adding that Harris would often loan other people small amounts of money and that he didn't know anyone who would want to hurt him.

Randy Shaw, whose nonprofit Tenderloin Housing Clinic owns and operates the building, said Harris was a longtime tenant of TLC properties and had recently moved from the Seneca Hotel on Sixth Street.

"He's been with us a long time. He was a very good tenant. It's not like it's someone off the street involved in the drug trade," Shaw said, adding that the building at 785 Brannan, which opened in September, is a "step up" for former tenants of SROs. "People are thrilled to be here -- that's what's so tragic."

"Our understanding is that someone in the apartment stabbed him," he said.

The victim's apartment is on the ground floor, down the hall from a common area that includes mail boxes and an elevator.

Adrienne Pavloff, 46, who lives on the second floor, said that until today, the building had been quiet, a relief for her and many other tenants who have weathered difficult experiences. She expressed hope that the apparent murder was an isolated incident.

"It's a little disturbing. I expected to be a lot safer here," she said. "It's been quiet so far; everyone I have met in the halls has been very nice."

Copyright 2007 San Francisco Chronicle

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