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Death on Capp Street
I write as a Capp Street resident in dismay. Dumbfounded by the disregard for fact checking in the "East Side Story" article (March 3), I am here to tell the real story. I should know. I was there. I held 19-year-old Roberto Ortega as he bled from a single gunshot to the head. I ran into my house, searching for something to stop the bleeding.

The author says that there was no way to know whether Roberto died instantly or not, that rumors quickly spread, "Is he dead or not?" Well, this is not so. When the paramedics arrived he was spitting blood and mucus and moaning unintelligibly. How do I know? Because I was holding his bleeding head in my arms. I was compressing his head lightly to stop the flow of warm blood. I was wiping the sweat from his forehead and the bloody spit from his mouth. I was whispering into his ear, "Calmate, calmate." There were no rumors whether he was dead or not. The young people surrounding the car saw me climb out the window of the passenger-side door (the door would not open) with blood on my hands. "Was he OK, man?" one asked. "Dude, was he still alive?" asked another. He was alive when the ambulance drove Roberto off.

The author says that Roberto's girlfriend was in the car with him and that when he crashed a seat belt was holding his "bloody, seemingly lifeless ... body in place in his car." Sorry, there was no seat belt, and there was no woman; at least after it crashed into the parked car 10 feet from my house.

The author says that Nortenos quickly destroyed the makeshift memorial of flowers and candles left at the murder spot. Again, not true. The candles and flowers were left undisturbed for at least five days, and then one day they were gone. No vandalism. No gangs. No nothing.

The author wraps up the article with a lovely line about the "bullet-ridden body" that was "loaded into an ambulance on the night of Jan. 4." Roberto was shot once in the back of the head execution-style. That's one bullet, no more, no less. Roberto was loaded into the ambulance sometime after 3 p.m., hardly nighttime. Perhaps these are small errors of fact. I do not think so. Why sensationalize a horrific trend with misinformation? It's not necessary.

Another person who agrees "East Side Story" is bullet-ridden with factual casualties is the very homicide detective who is presently working to solve Roberto's murder. Call her up! That might be a good place to start looking for some facts.

One last word before I go. The author begins his piece writing about a "residential area of Capp Street that looks idyllic." It's a stretch at best, and out-and-out hogwash at worst, to say that any section of Capp Street is idyllic. Better luck next time.

Evan Ross
Via Internet

Joel Engardio responds: I was told by neighbors that Mr. Ross was on the scene, and tried repeatedly to contact him, but was unsuccessful because he has since moved. Because Roberto Ortega's murder investigation is still open, police refused to release incident reports, or divulge details about the case. Therefore, my information was gleaned from sources close to Ortega, and other Capp Street residents who were home at the time of the shooting. Their recollections vary in some respects from those of Mr. Ross.

According to gang members, rumors about whether Ortega had died instantly did pass quickly throughout the neighborhood, far from the scene where Mr. Ross was. That the rumors were incorrect does not mean they did not exist. My story reported that Ortega was, in fact, still alive when he arrived at the hospital.

Details about the destruction of the makeshift memorial were provided by a neighbor with direct knowledge of how the flowers and candles came to be "gone."

As for the time of the incident, the story clearly stated that it happened around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The "night" reference at the end of the story was a mistake.

Of Mr. Ross' concerns, one is indeed a factual dispute -- whether or not a woman was in the car with Ortega. Police initially would not discuss the case, but now say they "do not believe" there was anyone else in the car. My sources, however, said there was. Until full police reports are made available, the question remains open.

Regarding the characterization of Capp Street as "idyllic," the reference clearly stated that the murder scene -- between the nursing home and the church -- would appear idyllic to an outsider. Anyone is free to quibble with that characterization.

Is Rick Thurber a Coward?
Your article on that strange little man, Rick Thurber, made my week ("Speechless in San Francisco," Cothran, March 3). His visits to our neighborhood have included ripping down the usual lost-dog fliers (some of which were all hand-lettered by an 8-year-old friend of ours), as well as removing announcements for a volunteer park cleanup.

He has constantly harassed local business owners; actually causing a small, neat, privately run coffeehouse to close down, simply because it was across the street from one of Thurber's rentals, and he felt it "wasn't appropriate, since there's a Starbucks 10 blocks away" (his words). His tactics were true-to-form for him: a barrage of complaints to city departments until the business owner gave up in disgust.

But, like most cowards, he can dish it out, but he can't take it: When a couple of the neighbors removed his cute little stickers from some poles and delivered them to his 10th & California apartment unit, he left notes on their cars, threatening them with fines and arrest.

I've called local city agencies about him, asking why they are allowing him to act on their behalf. Their reply is always the same: They know he's a nut case, and his almost daily calls to them are annoying, but they are compelled by "policy" to follow through on his bizarre complaints.

Thanks for your article ... I feel reassured that we aren't alone in being a lot more afraid of "Rick Thurber types" than we are of a few fliers taped to utility poles.

And regarding "certain politicians" backing up this weird creature with even more limitations on postings, here's an idea that might make them think twice: Next time they run for office and post their campaign signs, every single one that we see that is not absolutely legally posted (which will, as usual, include about 90 percent of them) should be removed by us. If you bring some short ladders, I'll bring my boom truck. We could have the whole city stripped clean of those ugly campaign signs in a couple of hours.

If Willie Brown and Barbara Kaufman want to encourage anal geekiness, I'll be more than happy to swell those ranks.

Chuck Lantz

Is Rick Thurber Dangerous?
George Cothran is a city treasure -- especially when he's on my side. I am mentioned in his piece, "Speechless in San Francisco," as someone who has been monitoring the insane activities of Rick Thurber. His most recent outrage is running over the foot of someone putting up a "garage sale" sign, resulting in hospital care.

Amidst the political issues of free speech vs. "order" (a dangerous concept, but beloved by Thurber, who used the word six times in a recent sanctimonious missive to me), my primary concern is to bring Thurber to account for his abuse of myself, my neighbors, and my community.

I would like to encourage all those whose rights and/or person have been impinged upon by Thurber to contact me. I can be reached at Cosi@SIRIUS.COM



Rick Thurber Speaks
Posting signs on public property, like graffiti, visually pollutes and is often more damaging ("Speechless in San Francisco"). Once abused, an area becomes vulnerable to further abuse. Signs, graffiti, and litter create a "no one cares" feeling in a neighborhood. The California Resource Agency, Bay Area conservation and planning organizations, nonprofits dedicated to low-income housing, and local-state-federal codes all endorse that existing neighborhoods must be adequately maintained to remain desirable places to live and work.

If SF Weekly actually values the "free for all" expression detailed in George Cothran's article, it ought to allow anyone to "freely" express their needs and wants in SF Weekly. Needless to say how absurd this would be.

The fact is, as individuals we share space, requiring mutually derived rules. Freedom to do as one likes obviously invites conflict and frustration within oneself and with others pursuing "their own thing."

Real freedom implies being emotionally one with the world, instead of self-centered, as well as being adept at accurately viewing reality, unburdened by any belief and ideology (if something is true, it stands on its own, no need to believe in it).

Thinking clearly and being emotionally one with the world prompts our innate capacity to appreciate, freshly and naively, the basic good of life with awe, pleasure, wonder, and, yes, even ecstasy. Under such conditions we readily care for one another.

A healthy fellowship ensues when we grasp that our own personal freedom and well-being goes hand in hand with care and consideration for all living things. Assertions such as "others doing it" or "it's my right" can serve as an indicator of when we are out of balance.

Rick Thurber
Community Clean-Up Project
San Francisco


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