SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An 18-year-old man, arrested in brutal assault on an 88-year-old woman in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood, has been charged with several other counts in a carjacking and two armed robberies.
San Francisco Police Investigations Bureau Commander Greg McEachern announced at a press conference Wednesday that Keonte Gathron allegedly was involved in a carjacking and two armed robberies in the days following the Jan. 8 assault.
He was arrested after a short foot pursuit in Visitacion Valley following the carjacking and robberies on Jan. 19th.
McEachern said DNA found on a pair gloves linked Gathron to the assault on the grandmother. His DNA was in the SFPD database because of Gathron’s previous criminal history as a juvenile.
He was being held in San Francisco County jail on charges that included attempted murder, kidnapping, elderly abuse, child endangerment, armed robbery and resisting arrest.
“Somewhere something went wrong (with the suspect),” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said. “Who does this? We have an 88-year-old grandmother who gets brutally beaten, a 14-year-old child robbed at gunpoint. Very bad things. I can’t make a personal assessment about this individual. What I can say is his actions speak to somebody who doesn’t value human life very much.”
Scott said there may be victims of other violent crimes committed by Gathron and hoped those victims would now come forward.
Gathron is suspected in the assault of the elderly grandmother in the 1000 block of Visitacion Avenue. Around 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 8th, a witness reported seeing a male suspect exit a residence from an interior staircase and walk eastbound on Visitacion Avenue.
Shortly thereafter, the victim, Yik Oi Huang, was found unconscious at the Visitacion Valley Playground across the street from the residence.
Huang was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where she continues to be treated for life-threatening injuries.
“They are saying swelling has gone down. They’re seeing signs that she is reacting, somewhat to visitors, but it’s ever so slight,” said Cynthia Choi, the Huang family spokesperson.
The family is hopeful that Huang will eventually get better.
“The family has been very focused on the grandmother’s recovery,” said Choi. “They’re really going through a range of emotions as you could imagine. She goes in and out of consciousness. She endured severe head injuries, so it remains to be seen what her long term health recovery will be.”
Even two weeks later, the neighborhood remains shaken by the brutal attack.
“It’s shocking. It sent shock waves through the community that an elderly woman could be beaten this way,” said Choi.
“My dad found her lying unconscious with her head covered in blood and her arm bruised,” Sasanna Yee, the victim’s granddaughter, told KPIX.
Yee said that the park where her grandmother was attacked was where she frequently did her morning exercise routine. “She was doing her morning exercises when she was attacked,” said Yee.
San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents District 10 and Visitacion Valley, released a statement praising police efforts in the case.
“Today, we have learned that the SFPD has apprehended a suspect connected to the attack on Ms. Huang. I want to thank SFPD for your diligence in investigating this case. Our community still has a lot of work to do to heal,” Walton said in the statement.
Walton said he held a community meeting on Saturday to talk with neighbors about their safety concerns. He said there is a lot of fear, but he hopes to bring in city resources to install security cameras, build a police substation, and create neighborhood watch groups.
“We’re going to fight to make sure that things like this don’t happen again,” said Walton.
Supervisor Norman Yee praised the assistance that members of the community provided to police.
“The community came out helped with evidence, helped with descriptions. We need to keep that up,” said Yee. “I grew up many years ago in Chinatown where the community wasn’t willing to help.”
The San Francisco Police Officer’s Association is also involved in the case. Last week, the organization offered a $10,000 reward for information in the case. Representatives of the SFPOA also say they’ve suggested putting a Mobile Command Center in the neighborhood and staffing it with officers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“I think it would really go a long way in terms of making the community feel safe and not feel in fear,” says Matt Lobre, the secretary for the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
Anyone with further information related to this case is asked to call the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411, beginning the text message with SFPD. Those sharing information may remain anonymous.
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