SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Eager to stave off the growing image of San Francisco as being a lawless city where violent murders are rampant and go unsolved, three of the city’s leaders turned out for a press conference Thursday to tout the arrest of a suspect in the April 4 stabbing murder of tech executive Bob Lee.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and Mayor London Breed spoke to reporters several hours after Nima Momeni, 38, was arrested at his home in Emeryville, a small city only a few miles across the bay from San Francisco. He was booked Thursday morning on suspicion of murder and is being held without bond ahead of his arraignment Friday at the Hall of Justice.
Momeni evidently knew Lee, the founder of Cash App, a mobile payment service. Like his alleged victim, Momeni is the head of a tech company, Expand IT, which he founded in 2010. While it’s unclear how well the two men knew one another, Scott said they were able to connect them.
“We follow the evidence and there’s a lot of evidence. There’s a lot of work to be done on this case and there’s still evidence we need to locate,” Scott told reporters.
Reports so far say Lee and Momeni were riding in Momeni’s car on April 4 when they began to argue. Police say Momeni stabbed Lee several times with a knife that was found later only a short distance from the spot to which officers responded.
According to police reports, officers arrived on the scene to find Lee, 43, with stab wounds. He was transported to a local hospital where he died.
“My office will be filing a motion to detain Mr. Momeni, without bail, to ensure that he remains in custody during the pendency of this case, because of the obvious and severe public safety risk that we believe he poses to the public,” Jenkins said.
The DA then thanked Lee’s family and the San Francisco public “for being patient with law enforcement during the course of this investigation. I know that everyone has wanted answers since this tragedy happened.”
Newspapers reported shortly after Lee’s murder that video footage from a residential building near where the stabbing took place depicted him making his way through the streets, clearly injured.
“He’s walking fast but he doesn’t wobble,” Robert Schneider, a residential services manager who saw the video, told the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after the incident. “He is on the phone and trying to flag down passing cars, but no one stops.”
Lee, the father of two young children, had only recently moved from Mill Valley in nearby Marin County to Miami, and was visiting San Francisco. Newspaper reports following his murder depicted a man who was widely admired and counted many friends in the tech industry.
Twelve years ago, Momeni was charged with selling a switchblade and driving with a suspended license. Charges related to the knife were dropped, but he served 10 days in jail and paid a $900 fine, as well as serving three years of probation. He also had a prior charge in 2004 for driving while intoxicated.
Lee’s murder grabbed local and national headlines, and many conservative news agencies presented the tragedy as yet another example of the deterioration of San Francisco. Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla Motors, which moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas, took to his social media platform Twitter to state that “violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.”
But the violent crime rate in San Francisco is relatively low, especially when compared with other major American cities. In 2019 and 2020, the city registered in the bottom half among big cities, lower than Houston, Washington, Chicago and Phoenix. Property crimes and burglaries, however, place San Francisco among the top cities for such crimes.
Thursday’s arrest, however, has prompted a mass of responses on Twitter from those who disagree with conservative assessments of San Francisco as being lawless, and taking to task the tech executives who were quick to attack San Francisco.
“The blame-the-homeless tech elites that rushed to politicize Bob Lee's murder should feel ashamed,” tweeted MIT Technology Review editor, Mat Honen. “I'm sure they won't, but they should.”
Stuart Schuffman, better known to San Franciscans as Broke Ass Stuart, the publisher of a popular San Francisco-focused blog by the same name, tweeted “So the alleged killer of Bob Lee works in tech. I’m waiting patiently for an apology from all the people who used Bob’s death as a way to paint San Francisco as a cesspool. Never mind, tech never takes responsibility for the destruction it causes.”
At the press conference, SFPD Chief Scott was asked by one reporter, “How would you respond to the people who have portrayed this death in San Francisco to make San Francisco out to be a lawless and crime-ridden place?”
Scott replied, “Well, what I would say to that is this is more about human nature and human behavior than it is about our city. Put them in another city — and I’m not gonna name any other city because I don’t want to do that to any other city — but just putting it in any other city, I don’t believe would have changed circumstances one bit. This is not about San Francisco. It happened in San Francisco and that is unfortunate. It’s even more of a tragedy that it happened at all but this is more about human nature. Facts show and research shows that most people who commit homicides know the people that they kill.”
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