Hearing at 9 a.m. Monday, April 12, in Supervisors’ Chamber, Room 250, San Francisco City Hall, will address questions surrounding Lennar’s hired gun
by Carol Harvey
Community outrage over Florida-based developer Lennar sending an armed ex-SFPD officer to a meeting where a scientist invited by the EPA was criticizing a controversial report favoring Lennar’s massive development plans for Hunters Point will be aired on Monday, April 12, at a 9 a.m. hearing in the Legislative Chamber, Room 250, of San Francisco City Hall. Plans for a 9:30 press conference prior to the hearing, which had been scheduled to begin at 10:30, had to be scrapped at the last minute when it was discovered that the start time had been advanced to 9 a.m.
At the EPA-sponsored meeting, held Feb. 18 at the Nation of Islam’s community center and mosque on Third Street in Bayview Hunters Point, environmental toxin expert Dr. Wilma Subra detailed the dangerous present and future impacts of radioactive and other toxic contamination at the partially-cleaned Hunters Point Shipyard Superfund site where Lennar, the “master developer” chosen by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, plans to build thousands of mostly upscale condos.
Provoking further outrage is the subsequent stalking by San Francisco police of Nation security head Brother Mark Muhammad, who had immediately and quietly led the gunman out of the meeting and placed him under citizen’s arrest until the police he had called arrived. It was on Thursday, April 1, during a meeting at the Bayview police station that Mark first publicly reported being followed by SFPD officers after the Feb. 18 meeting.
Corporate press vs. the Nation of Islam
Minister Christopher Muhammad’s leadership in the environmental justice movement to protect the Bayview community make him and the Nation a target of Redevelopment Agency and Lennar corporate interests that stand to profit from bringing thousands of people to live, work and play on 500 acres of an inadequately cleaned radioactive Superfund site.
Corporate media in San Francisco use inflammatory language to mischaracterize and distort the Nation’s discipline and influence into a terrifying and threatening force.
In her July 1, 2009, SF Weekly article, “The Man Who Cried Dust,” Lauren Smiley quoted Lennar representative Keith Jackson claiming both Minister Christopher and Brother Leon Muhammad, dean of the Nation’s school and a member of the Redevelopment-sponsored Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee, intimidated him.
No mention was made that Dean Leon Muhammad, whose own students are outstanding achievers, also served recently as a consultant for the San Francisco Unified School District addressing academic issues at Malcolm X Academy, a public elementary school in Hunters Point. Within one year, students achieved the district’s highest API (California Academic Performance Index) scores.
On March 2, 2010, in one of several derogatory articles in the daily press, the Examiner’s Brent Begin spun as “the belly of the beast” the Nation’s mosque where the EPA’s expert spoke on Feb. 18, suggesting bravery by the “retired SFPD officer working security for Lennar Corp.” who entered with a loaded gun.
Lennar’s hired gun
During Dr. Wilma Subra’s talk at the standing-room-only meeting on Feb. 18, a middle-aged white man was spotted sitting with an associate taping with a hidden recorder and carrying an unpermitted, loaded firearm. The man made a flimsy attempt to conceal the gun and recorder under his jacket.
As head of security for mosques in eight cities, Brother Mark’s charge was to act impeccably to protect everyone at the meeting (I was one and many children were also present) from a possibly dangerous man wielding a gun. He also had to do what he could to protect the Nation from the slurs corporate journalists have slung throughout the four years since Lennar started work at the shipyard and the people of Bayview Hunters Point began questioning its performance on environmental justice grounds.
Brother Mark created no targets. He led the man outside and called the Bayview police station. While they waited for police, Mark respectfully announced he would cuff the gunman’s hands behind his back around a pole to prohibit his reaching his pocket which held the gun. Because the gunman complained of a stiff shoulder, Brother Mark handcuffed the man’s hands in front of his body around the pole. Brother Mark left the gun for officers to remove from the man’s pocket when they arrived.
Police Commission hearing, police station meeting
On March 31, the Police Commission held a hearing near Bayview Hunters Point where the community aired the incident. Brother Leon Muhammad testified that, after the gunman’s arrest, SFPD officers were “chuckling, laughing and giggling” with him.
This supported speculation the ex-SFPD officer, known by police, may have been hired by Lennar as an “agent provocateur” to cause a commotion, scare participants or use a loaded weapon to lure Nation members into a confrontation, putting them at risk for arrest and more negative publicity.
The following day, Thursday, April 1, during a public meeting at the Bayview police station, troubling questions surfaced.
Present were police Capt. Greg Suhr and the swing shift commander; Leon Muhammad, school dean, and Mark Muhammad, head of security for the Nation of Islam; District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell; Marie Harrison, Greenaction activist, her husband, Naim Harrison, who attends a Fillmore mosque, Nyese Joshua, a Bayview mother who is active with POWER and the environmental justice movement, and other community members.
It was disclosed that, on questioning, the gunman was identified as a former Ingleside police officer, now head of a security firm hired by Lennar. At the Feb. 18 meeting, he gave two different assumed names, a false address and phone number and could produce no permit to carry a gun nor papers authorizing his security position with Lennar.
When two Bayview station officers arrived, Brother Mark unlocked the handcuffs. The junior officer took the man’s wallet from his pocket. On viewing the ID, he said, shocked, “This is above my pay grade!”
The perpetrator rode away in the police car’s rear seat not wearing handcuffs as protocol dictates. The police returned his gun, either outside the mosque or later at the Bayview station.
At about 12:30 a.m., as Brother Mark drove home from the EPA-sponsored talk, he received a cell phone call from someone with a slightly “gruff and arrogant voice” saying he was “just the investigator on the case” of the citizen’s arrest. “Is your true name [Brother Mark’s real name],” he asked? “Yes,” said Mark. The man verified Mark’s address and phone number, saying, “That’s all I need for my records,” then abruptly hung up.
Pulling up to his house, Mark found two men parked outside. The ex-police officer he had arrested poked his head inside Mark’s vehicle window and threatened, “You will regret this.”
Concerned for his wife and children’ safety, Brother Mark acknowledged this threat affirmatively, got out of his car, locked it, walked past the two men and entered his house. He immediately phoned the Bayview police station, informing the night commander the man he had just placed under citizen’s arrest was at his home.
Curious how the gunman got his phone number and address, he drove to the station and made a second in-person inquiry and report. “You did the right thing reporting this and coming into the station,” said the commander. (During the April 1 meeting, Capt. Suhr indicated he was uninformed about Brother Mark’s back-to-back reports.)
When he returned home, two men different from the gunman and his companion sat outside Brother Mark’s house, waiting for him to pull up. Evidently because Brother Mark had reported him, the gunman did not show up this time.
Asked Marie Harrison, “If not for police department cronyism, how would this ex-police officer (and other people) Brother Mark wasn’t acquainted with” have not only his phone number but his home address – which they proved by twice being parked outside waiting when Brother Mark returned to his house?
Mark was prepared with a camera and photographed their car.
The next day, two more officers appeared. “One got out of the vehicle. One walked around the car,” Marie stated, repeating what she had heard at the meeting.
These men said little. “Brother Mark was able to identify the .45 in the holster strapped to the side of the gentleman who pulled his jacket back to make sure that he saw (the gun).”
Unnerved and threatened, Mark felt he was being stalked.
His camera’s zoom function on a second photo Mark took rendered visible the police car license plate number.
During the April 1 meeting, the Bayview station commander and Capt. Suhr viewed the photograph on the camera. “I don’t want to accidentally erase this,” Suhr joked.
Suhr said that the gunman’s standing as an ex-police officer made it unnecessary he carry either a loaded firearm license or security authorization papers.
Between Feb. 18 and April 1, few people in the Nation or the community knew of these events. Marie Harrison stated, “Everyone at the meeting agreed it was inappropriate for the (gun)man to go to Mark’s house. This was very serious.” There were too many coincidences and unanswered questions.
When the junior officer who arrived at the mosque saw the gunman’s identification, why did shock cross his face when he said, “This is above my pay grade?” Did the ID mark him a high-ranking ex-police official?
Why was the gunman Mark placed under citizen’s arrest given back his gun and released?
Why did this gunman come to Mark’s house that same night?
How did he get Mark’s address?
Who was the man identifying himself as an “investigator” who called to verify Mark’s name, address and phone number?
Did this “investigator” phone from the Bayview or Ingleside police station?
Was this “investigator” the gunman?
What was the arrested gunman’s intent when, soon after the “investigator’s” call, he appeared outside Brother Mark’s house?
Police contend the caller could not have been the Bayview station investigator, who they say was not working there the night of Feb. 18.
From which station, Bayview or Ingleside, was the case “investigated?”
Why do Bayview station police say they thought this case was sent to Ingleside where – as Capt. Suhr and the Bayview commander revealed – the gunman served 30 years as captain or commander?
Why did two men different from the gunman appear at Mark’s home immediately after he reported the first visit to the Bayview station commander?
Why did two different police officers visit Brother Mark’s house the next day?
Why, after these three visitations, was the case investigated, not by the Bayview but by the Ingleside station, where this ex-cop had once worked?
During the April 1 meeting, Capt. Greg Suhr announced he was told the investigation, along with copies of this man’s gun license and identification, were sent the next day to the District Attorney’s Office. If the man had no gun license at the scene, how did copies of the license appear with the report sent to the DA’s office?
Marie reported Capt. Suhr said the case was still under investigation but is now in the DA’s hands. Is it being investigated at Ingleside or the Bayview station or by the DA?
Why did Supervisor Sophie Maxwell sit stony-eyed while frightening events were revealed?
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco writer whose work is published by many Bay Area periodicals. Email her at email@example.com.
Supervisors and community organizations condemn Lennar’s loaded firearm in peaceful community meeting
by Jaron Browne
San Francisco Supervisors are holding a hearing on a Supervisor resolution introduced last month demanding an apology from the Lennar Corp. for its irresponsible and dangerous behavior of bringing a loaded firearm into a peaceful and informative community meeting.
On Feb. 18, 2010, Lennar sent a man to record the meeting without attempting to obtain prior permission. The man came to the meeting with a loaded firearm and presented himself under an assumed name.
A diverse community of more than 200 people including small children had gathered that night to listen to Dr. Wilma Subra, winner of the MacArthur Genius Award, an Environmental Protection Agency acclaimed scientist and specialist in Superfund sites. Dr. Subra gave a presentation that evening on the draft of the Environmental Impact Report for Lennar’s controversial Hunters Point Naval Shipyard development, set to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors in June or July of this year. A recording of the meeting can be heard here and at http://www.realasponse.com/wilma.mp3 and the slides Dr. Subra showed can be seen at http://www.realasponse.com/wilma.ppt.
“It is intimidating. I never thought Lennar would begin taking this to the level of armed intimidation,” said Vivien Donahue, one of the Bayview’s grandmothers attending the event that night. “But what choice do we have? We cannot let Lennar scare us away from talking about health issues in this development.”
The Supervisor’s resolution states, “The act by the Lennar Corporation of sending one of its representatives into a peaceful, non-violent community meeting with a loaded firearm sends a message to the community members of Bayview Hunters Point that is contrary to the values of the City and County of San Francisco, which upholds the right to organize and assemble peacefully.”
“San Francisco cannot allow such a blatant attempt to stifle community participation to happen without retribution,” said Shaw San Liu, organizer with the Chinese Progressive Association. “The threat of violence against community members is absolutely unacceptable.”
Lennar’s proposal to build 10,000 condominiums and a stadium on the Navy Superfund site has been extremely controversial. The Draft Environmental Impact Report was released for public comment in November 2009. Dozens of environmental and community organizations, scientists and others submitted comments listing hundreds of issues of concern, including early transfer of Parcels B and G on the Superfund site, the deregulation of remedial clean-up to private entities, the ramifications of radiological contamination, the dangers of liquefaction, climate change and sea level rise, transportation impacts and the preservation of the indigenous historic Ohlone burial sites.
In 2008, Lennar was fined $515,000 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for violating the Dust Mitigation Agreement at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the largest fine in California to be levied in this context. The Lennar Corp. is facing lawsuits in Texas, Florida, Arizona and San Diego, California, where the developer has built on toxic land. In Orlando, Florida, Lennar built homes on top of a World War II bombing range. People began to find undetonated bombs underneath their homes, including a 23-pound fragment bomb. The City of Orlando called for a forced evacuation of surrounding homes and a day care center.
This is the first time the City and County of San Francisco will be reviewing an Environmental Impact Report on a Superfund site.
Jaron Browne of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.