He Attacked a Woman Outside Her Condo on Video. A San Francisco Judge Set Him Free. Now Leaders Are Speaking Out.
San Francisco leaders have condemned a Superior Court judge’s decision to release a homeless man with no monitoring after he attacked a woman outside her apartment building on video.
The assault occurred at around 1:40 a.m. Aug. 10 outside the Watermark next to the Embarcadero Homeless Navigation Center, which is set to open by the end of this year.
Paneez Kosarian told KPIX 5 that she and a man were having a peaceful conversation outside the apartment building when he suddenly expressed fears that the woman behind the front desk inside was a robot and that he wanted to kill her. When Kosarian refused to give him her keys and wallet, he grabbed her. Surveillance video shows Kosarian being thrown to the ground and struggling to fend off her attacker.
Officer response was delayed.
“The officers who were responding to that call were diverted to a domestic violence call nearby. Once the subject’s behavior escalated further and it became assaultive, it became an A priority call and the officers were able to respond and take that subject into custody,” Sgt. Michael Andraychak told KPIX 5.
The suspect got away but was later found and apprehended by police.
The attack was shocking. But what happened next was so disturbing that Kosarian says she’s ready to move to another city.
On Wednesday morning, Kosarian received a call from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office notifying her that the 25-year-old suspect, Austin James Vincent, had been released.
“The San Francisco District Attorney’s office charged Vincent on Tuesday with two felony counts of false imprisonment and attempted robbery and two misdemeanor counts of battery. Vincent entered not guilty pleas on all charges and, despite concerns expressed by prosecutors, the court released him Wednesday morning without electronic monitoring,” KPIX reports.
Kosarian said she’s terrified. Vincent was ordered to stay 100 feet away from her building, so she's now a "prisoner" in her own home.
"I’m terrified of leaving my own house while this man roams our streets freely,” explained Kosarian.
“The court released the defendant over our objection and contrary to the release recommendation of the public safety assessment tool on assertive case management,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Now, officials are speaking out.
Mayor London Breed called the judge’s decision “a huge mistake” and said Vincent is clearly “a danger to society” (KRON4).
Supervisor Matt Haney is also concerned:
"I believe strongly that our neighborhoods and residents are safer when we implement effective accountability for crimes and ensure robust services and treatment for those who require it."
The San Francisco Police Officers Association is calling for action as well.
“Judge Christine Van Aken’s continued tenure overseeing criminal cases is a danger to every law-abiding resident of San Francisco,” the SFPOA said in a statement. “She may have been a reasonably competent civil attorney but she is a catastrophe of a criminal judge.”
The attack has revived concerns about the city’s homelessness crisis and the scheduled opening of the new homeless navigation center.
“You can’t put these people into a residential area and say, ‘Don’t feel unsafe. You’re safe.’ You can’t do that," Kosarian said. "The city needs to properly address this. The city needs to come up with a plan and show us, prove to us that we are safe.”
Kosarian has been reaching out to politicians, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, on social media.
One fear expressed by critics of the center was that police response may not be quick enough in an incident involving the shelter. Kosarian’s experience has added to those fears.
Photo: San Francisco Police Department