March 2014

Crime: High-Speed Car Chase Forces Lockdown of Local Schools

Keith Burbank

A high-speed car chase through Potrero Hill forced a lockdown of the neighborhood’s public schools last month. At Daniel Webster Elementary School, one of the schools closest to the chase, the lockdown lasted for roughly an hour, with various campuses locked down from 12:30 to 2 p.m.  The other impacted schools were Starr King Elementary, International Studies Academy, Kipp High School and Downtown High School.

According to the San Francisco Unified School District’s School Site Emergency Plan, a lockdown involves moving students inside, covering windows, turning off lights, and seeking cover under furniture and away from windows. No students in the public schools were harmed during the incident.

“We received a phone call from the Bayview Police Station stating that the school needed to be on lockdown due to an incident [at] 25th and Connecticut [streets],” Principal Moraima Machado wrote to the Daniel Webster school community. “I want to assure you that all efforts were made to keep the students and school community safe,” she added.

The incident began when police observed a stolen vehicle at 25th and Dakota streets. As officers attempted to stop the car, the driver accelerated, leading police on a chase. Officers relinquished pursuit for public safety reasons, but caught up with the suspect at 19th and Third streets, where the suspect’s automobile had collided with vehicles at a stop light. The suspect tried to drive his car between two automobiles, while officers attempted to contain him.  The suspect started ramming cars, and drove his vehicle at an officer, who fired at the driver. Police don’t know if the bullet hit the suspect.

Officers relinquished pursuit again to help a victim in pain, and later located the vehicle, which was empty, at 25th and Dakota streets. Police believe the suspect may have entered a Potrero Terrace or Annex apartment.

Albie Esparza, public information officer, San Francisco Police Department, said the department asked the schools to lockdown because the suspect showed a gross lack of concern for public safety. No arrests have been made, and Esparza didn’t know if the investigations unit had identified a suspect. The police department’s crime scene investigation unit is examining the car for forensic evidence.  

“A variety of emotions, including shock, sadness, fear, and anger could affect us,” Machado said in her letter to Daniel Webster parents. “I want you to know that we, the Daniel Webster staff, care about the feelings our students, families, [and] staff may be experiencing.” The school’s crisis response team was available to address students’ emotional needs. Members of the Daniel Webster team include Machado, as well as staff members Jessica Matos, Therese Rebong, Laura Sherwood, and Martini Veronica.

According to Gentle Blythe, executive director, public outreach and communications, San Francisco Unified School District, every SFUSD school has a crisis response team. And a district-wide team is available to assist school teams.

“This recent school/community emergency may prove stressful for your family, especially if your family has experienced a trauma or loss recently,” Machado added. “This recent incident may trigger feelings about your trauma or loss, and is a normal experience.”

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