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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

With Egg Still Dripping from SFPD's Faces in L'Affaire de la Plaza, S.F. Declares Other Suspicious Stabbing Death 'Accidental'

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

click to enlarge John 'Daniel' Schirra
  • John 'Daniel' Schirra
"Sometime past midnight on Labor Day of [2007], 22-year-old John "Daniel" Schirra was running nude along an Ingleside District street, yelling for help. He was in the grips of a bad acid trip, and had either just been stabbed or was about to be. He tried to stop two cars and rang a random doorbell at one of the neighborhood's modest homes. Someone called the police to report that a naked young man, who may have been bloody, was running in the street. No one stopped to help."

That was the opening paragraph of John Geluardi's visceral cover story in the Sept. 10 edition of SF Weekly. The story examined a quartet of 2007 suspicious stabbing deaths caught in the legal purgatory of an "undetermined death" classification -- where they stayed, for months and years.

Schirra's posthumous wait ended last week, when the San Francisco Medical Examiner ruled the San Francisco State student -- who, in addition to knife wounds, suffered blunt force injuries throughout his body, lacerations, and a fractured eye socket -- was "accidental."

That's likely little solace to Schirra's friends, who told Geluardi they couldn't buy the SFPD's working theory that Schirra somehow stabbed himself and hit his head -- and weren't alone:

There may be similar doubt among police ranks. Someone in the homicide detail reported his death as a murder by blunt force in its annual report to the California Department of Justice. The state finalized those statistics last month. [Lieutenant Michael] Stasko says he has been so busy since he took over that he hasn't reviewed the 2007 list and didn't know Schirra's name was on it.

There are also lingering questions about the thoroughness of the homicide investigation. There is an overarching principle in criminal investigation that when there are two or more theories about a particular crime, the investigating agency should pursue them all to their logical conclusions, says David Klinger, dean of the graduate program in criminology at the University of Missouri. So unless police were able to determine for certain that Schirra stabbed himself and then accidentally struck his head, the principle would dictate that they should have continued an aggressive homicide investigation.

Multiple calls to Schirra's parents were not returned.

The medical examiner's ruling comes on the heels of a French investigation stating that, contrary to the SFPD's theory of a suicide, Hugues de la Plaza was murdered.The French national, another subject of Geluardi's story, was found dead of stab wounds in his Hayes Valley apartment in 2007. The SFPD was humiliated when a federal judge allowed French authorities to pack all the forensic evidence back to Paris -- and, again, late last month when those authorities made their ruling.

Readers with a smattering of proficiency in French may be interested with this Monday article in the leftist French daily Libération. In it, de la Plaza's father, François, reiterates his intention to visit San Francisco on the 15th of the month, pressure local officials, and post a $100,000 reward for information leading to his son's killer. The elder de la Plaza, it should be noted, picks his words carefully. While critics of the SFPD's handling of his son's death have bandied about accusations of jaw-dropping incompetence befitting a guns-but-no-shoes third-world security force, de la Plaza keeps it diplomatic.

He doesn't accuse the SFPD of being stupid. Just lazy.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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