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Three Bat Thursday: It's 'batsy' on both sides of the Bay
Mission Local laments gang rapist; neighbors warned of homeless camping at site of four-alarm fire; Oakland group set up GoFundMe for two-time attacker of Asian elders
Before we get down to business, I wanted to thank everyone who reached out to say how much they loved seeing the return of Three Dot Journalism to Gotham by the Bay. The only criticism came from diehard fans of Herb Caen’s stylized “three dots,” which actually were three stars centered between items.
Since this is Gotham by the Bay, I figured I’d use three bats and rename the column “Three Bat Thursday.” Seems appropriate, since things are batsy on both sides of the Bay these days.
Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
On July 26, San Francisco police officers shot and killed 41-year-old Ryant Bluford of San Francisco in the Bayview District. Uploaded to Twitter (or “X” as it’s now called) by user @campaignralo, a video shows the incident in graphic detail. Bluford is seen walking back and forth while officers, in the midst of another arrest, keep him at a distance. Bluford pulls out what appears to be a gun and points it at the officers, who then shoot him. Almost immediately, rumors circulated that Bluford was unarmed, but SFPD Chief Bill Scott, answering questions about the shooting while speaking before the department’s newest academy class, squashed the rumor. “Yes, he was armed. There’s a number of videos out there, the gun was recovered,” he said.
The next day, the blog Mission Local ran a story by Gilare Zada, Griffin Jones and Joe Riven Barros entitled, “Bayview neighbors lament police shooting death of Ryant ‘Peanut’ Bluford,” with friends recalling Bluford as “a loving father, brother, cousin and friend” while “acknowledging the violent crime in his past.” Neighbors went on to make Bluford out to be a real peach of a person. “He had four kids and a wife, two were twins. He did the best he could,” a man who gave his name as “Tyke” told the reporters. “He was in the pen for 12 years; he had some mental issues from that.” In the original version of the article, Mission Local downplayed Peanut’s past, but after outraged readers posted one of the cases on social media, editors appear to have added more gravitas, acknowledging Bluford was convicted in the 2006 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in San Francisco, spent “more than a decade in prison as a result,” and that he “was again charged, in 2022, for domestic violence and sexual assault.”
After getting that out of the way, the love fest continued with Mission Local quoting an “anonymous neighbor” (the blog is infamous for its anonymous interviewees) saying, “You have to think about the kind of trauma someone has experienced with the police. He looked done, driven to suicide by cop.” The reporters detail Bluford’s family lighting candles and drawing chalk circles while making the decedent out to be a victim. “Peanut had been through the wringer,” the reporters quote family and friends. “He had a fearful association with police, borne from a lifetime of negative experiences dealing with law enforcement.”
What the reporters don’t do is go into detail about the heinous gang rape that sent Peanut to prison. In court documents, 16-year-old “D.I.” describes smoking a cigarette near Turk and Taylor Streets when a van occupied by four men, including Bluford, ordered her inside at gunpoint. She was driven to a dead-end street where she was serially assaulted by all four men. One of the assailants, Allen Releford, told her, “Bitch, this is going to be the best night you ever had. You won’t forget this.” He forced her to orally copulate him and then have vaginal sex; he also penetrated her vagina with the barrel of a gun and with a “Hennessy liquor bottle.”
As Bluford took his turn, he warned, “If you’re cool, we won’t shoot you. Do what you’re supposed to do, we will let you live; we won’t kill you.” He forced the victim to orally copulate him, then to have vaginal sex. Bluford was also the only assailant to force anal sex upon the victim. For Mission Local to allow Bluford’s relatives and “anonymous friends and neighbors” to wax poetic about this monster makes me question their journalistic standards.
According to a tweet (or an “X”?) by political commentator Richie Greenberg, District 8 supervisor Rafael Mandelman is running for the California State Senate seat currently warmed by his District 8 predecessor Scott Wiener in the 2028 election, raising $110,000 in just the past few months. Mandelman is just another in a long line of San Francisco politicians who seem to think the City is in such great shape under their leadership it warrants a promotion. District 2 supervisor Catherine Stefani has gone radio silent on her constituents as she hopes to replace Phil Ting, who is termed out of his Assembly seat next year. Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who preceded Stefani as D2 supervisor prior to becoming mayor, a job he left to become California’s lieutenant governor and now governor. Matt Haney left District 6, which then included the troubled Tenderloin, last year, after winning a special election to the California State Assembly to succeed David Chiu, who resigned six months prior to become City Attorney of San Francisco. Haney won by pivoting from a past associated with San Francisco’s Democratic Socialists to a pro-housing moderate. Of course, his competition was former District 9 supervisor David Campos (who also served as chief of staff under recalled district attorney Chesa Boudin) which I think says more about voters not wanting to elect Campos than wanting to elect Haney. Chiu took over for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, appointed by Mayor London Breed as a fox to guard the hen house, replacing SFPUC general manager Harlan Kelly, recently convicted on six of eight counts of felony fraud.
As I mentioned in last month’s column, Kelly went on a vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, approved by Judge Alex Tse, prior to his sentencing. I wonder if he wore an ankle monitor. Not likely since it would make swimming problematic.
Over in Gotham Oakland, the city’s branch of the NAACP wrote a scathing letter calling for an end to Oakland’s public safety crisis. In the July 27 missive, President Cynthia Adams and Bishop Bob Jackson, Senior Pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church, blame “Failed leadership, including the movement to defund the police, our District Attorney's unwillingness to charge and prosecute people who murder and commit life threatening serious crimes, and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric” for creating a heyday for Oakland criminals, stating, “If there are no consequences for committing crime in Oakland, crime will continue to soar.”
Adams and Jackson also say that while “African Americans are disproportionately hit the hardest by crime in East Oakland and other parts of the city, residents from all parts of the city report that they do not feel safe. Women are targeted by young mobs and viciously beaten and robbed in downtown and uptown neighborhoods. Asians are assaulted in Chinatown. Street vendors are robbed in Fruitvale. News crews have their cameras stolen while they report on crime. PG&E workers are robbed and now require private security when they are out working. Everyone is in danger.” You can read the full letter here.
Speaking of crimes against the Asian community, on July 25, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced charges against 27-year-old James Lee Ramsey after he was arrested for kicking an 88-year-old Asian American woman to the ground. Ramsey pleaded not guilty to felony elder abuse, assault, and battery. Police said the unprovoked attack took place on Ellis Street near Market Street. According to KTVU’s ace crime reporter Henry Lee, a witness detained Ramsey until police arrived, and the victim was transported to a local hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Ramsey also allegedly committed battery on the witness. As if the case isn’t disturbing enough, Ramsey was previously convicted of assaulting Carl Chan, the head of Oakland's Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, in 2021. “Since Ramsey is mentally ill, an Alameda County judge opted not to send him to prison instead ordering him to spend 18 months in county jail and then another 18 under supervision. He had already done his time,” Lee reported. According to his attorneys, Ramsey has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and evidently a deep hatred toward those of Asian descent: Chan says Ramsey uttered racial slurs while hitting him on the back of the head.
Cat Brooks, executive director of the Anti Police-Terror Project (I’ll have more on Brooks and APTP in an upcoming Gotham by the Bay) was just one of a number of activists with egg on their faces after setting up a GoFundMe account to cover costs for putting Ramsey up in hotels. The reason? After Ramsey was released from prison “no one wanted to house him due to his assault conviction.”
They removed the fundraiser, but you can still find it archived by clicking here.
You would think Brooks and her cohorts would have set up a fund for Ramsey’s victim, Chan, who was understandably upset about the fundraising for the now two-time violent attacker. "When you were able to get support from many people and doing the wrong thing, and when you came out and you're financially rewarded," Chan told KTVU, but Brooks didn’t budge, blaming “the system” and Ramsey’s “mental illness” for the entire ordeal and making no apologies for raising the money, nor to Ramsey’s two victims. "It is proof that the system failed James. He should have been in a long-term, permanent, supportive care facility," Brooks babbled. "The first thing, of course, is concern for the elder, right? Like no one is celebrating that. And then is mass frustration because this did not have to happen.” On another note, the fact APTP raised over $12,000 to reimburse itself for Ramsey’s hotel stays is curious: according to their 2021 tax forms, they had total assets of $5,403,517 and just $7,859 in total liabilities, for a yearend balance of $5.395,658.
As for the person who organized the fundraiser, Maureen Benson, she responded to the criticism with more defiance, tweeting, “You mean fundraise for a severely mentally ill person that the state wouldn’t provide any care or housing for so we put him up in hotel rooms and provided advocacy to get the proper care and treatment so he’s not on the street Yeah, I support APTP all day every day.” I guess my question for Benson is “How’d that work out for you?” Benson, like Brooks, never said she was sorry to either of Ramsey’s victims, nor did they mention the Asian hate component of the two attacks, the latter of which occurred while APTP was advocating to get Ramsey “proper care and treatment.”
Benson, who is white, says on her website that she is an educator focusing on “Transmuting White Supremacy and Patriarchy.” She has been a high school teacher and principal in Oakland (lucky kids) and a Police Commissioner (no surprise there), as well as an organizer with local groups “dedicated to ending police violence against marginalized communities, specifically Black people who are exponentially targeted by state terror.” Benson doesn’t say how unabashedly supporting a violent felon with two random attacks on Asian elders fits into her role working with “social impact organizations focused on racial justice.”
On August 1, after a four-alarm fire destroyed what SocketSite described as “a pair of modern apartment buildings on two skinny lots” under construction at Octavia and Oak streets, a letter surfaced revealing that the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association warned City officials about the frequent fires occurring along Octavia back in May. Addressed to Mayor Breed, District supervisor Dean Preston, Executive Director Mary Ellen Carroll of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management SFPD Chief Scott, and Sam Dodge, director of the Healthy Streets Operations Center, the letter details “a series of dangerous fires along Octavia Boulevard that started around tent encampments.” In a statement, Breed said it was too early in the investigation to make assumptions about the cause. Preston also said he would not speculate. As you may recall, Preston, along with trust-fund baby turned Haight-Ashbury business hobbyist Christin Evans, bought and handed out tents to transients in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood (my home of over 30 years). I wrote about the effects of their escapades in a Reynolds Rap column in the Marina Times here. One month after that column — which featured criticisms from residents and business owners — Preston went before the Board of Supervisors and demanded that the Marina Times be removed from taxpayer-funded city advertising (I have a Reynolds Rap on that entire event coming soon). Clearly Preston is no fan of the Marina Times, or the First Amendment.
And now a TBT update on a story I brought to Gotham and Marina Times readers earlier this year: On April 22, 2022, an anonymous Twitter account with the handle ‘KarlBra47’ posted an off-the-cuff Old West-style “Wanted” poster meme which read, “WANTED: Gary McCoy, harm reduction advocate, for the murder of 1500 plus drug addicts at the failed Linkage Center.” The meme was in reference to McCoy in his role as vice president of public affairs and policy for HealthRIGHT 360, a multimillion-dollar purveyor of harm reduction that I’ve written about before, best known for teaming up with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to run the controversial Tenderloin Linkage Center. In fact, McCoy was himself the subject of controversy when he “fudged” the numbers to make the “linkage” part look far more successful than it was (the center later closed).
While the Twitter meme of McCoy was factually untrue, the anonymous Twitter account was trying to make a point — that harm reduction doesn’t save lives, it merely prolongs the misery of addiction and inevitable death, particularly with the emergence of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. In the past two years, nearly 1,500 people have died of overdoses in San Francisco, mostly due to fentanyl. McCoy, however, clearly didn’t get the picture — on May 9, 2022, he filed a lawsuit not only against the anonymous account holder for tweeting the meme, but also against six accounts that retweeted the original tweet, including writer and anti-harm reduction advocate Erica Sandberg.
Over a year later, McCoy and his attorney, Alex Lemberg, have yet to uncover the identity of “Doe1,” as he is called in the lawsuit, and are still wasting people’s time and tying up the courts. I was given an exclusive interview with Doe1, who is a gay elder and icon (I can’t say why he’s an icon because it would give away his identity), who says the frivolous suit has terrorized and consumed his life. While Lemberg and McCoy dropped Sandberg from their case early on, they are now trying to depose her because she responded to my article on Twitter, saying Doe1 is indeed “an elderly gay man.” According to Lemberg and McCoy, the pain and suffering McCoy has endured from the meme is a Dr. Evil worthy one million dollars.
Must watch TV: Veteran journalist and NBC Bay Area News anchor Jessica Aguirre interviews the family of Michaela Garecht, who was abducted 34 years ago. “Her father was hoping he would finally get answers until new Alameda county D.A. Pamela Price reduced the charges against her alleged killer,” Aguirre tweeted. The longtime prosecutor on the case, put on “leave” by a spiteful Price, speaks out, as does the family, who says they only spoke to Price after she had reduced the charges (a clear violation of Marsy’s Law). When they asked Price why she reduced the charges, the new D.A., who is already facing a recall, recited her usual mantra about mass incarceration disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people, to which the family responded, “Michaela’s killer is white.” I have my DVR set for the second part of Aguirre’s report, which will run on tonight’s NBC Bay Area News at 11 p.m.
The TBT #TweetoftheWeek goes to District 6 supervisor Matt Dorsey on the passing of legendary comedian Paul Reubens, better known as his character Pee-wee Herman. “For the hundreds of San Franciscans who back in 1991 took part in one of the funniest, most memorably bizarre rallies I have ever witnessed, this week’s sad news marks an end of an era of sorts,” Dorsey wrote. He was referring to the pro-Pee-wee demonstration that happened outside the Roxie Theater in the Mission District on Aug. 3, 1991, after the actor was arrested in a Florida adult movie theater on a charge of indecent exposure. As it turns out, I was at that rally, dragged by an older friend who seemed to always know when and where big things were happening. That same friend dragged me to the first Burning Man in 1986, where Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James cobbled together a primitive wooden man and carted it down to Baker beach on the Summer Solstice. “What is this?” I asked, our faces bathed in the orange glow of the burning stick figure. My friend offered me a swig of his beer and said “Art.”
Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.