Racist doll and noose left on doorstep investigated as hate crime

by Griffin Jones

suspect-terry-williams-hate-crime-042624-e1714526768920, Racist doll and noose left on doorstep investigated as hate crime, Local News & Views News & Views
The suspect in the hate crime against Terry Williams walks up the southern side of Grove Street toward Steiner Street and Alamo Square Park.

On Friday morning, April 26, a man woke up to take his dogs out for an early walk around Alamo Square park. When he opened his door, he found a bulky ziploc bag sitting just inside the front gate. Inside it was a doll painted black with a noose around its neck.

The doll was covered in writing with expletives and racial slurs like “SAMBO” and “MONKEY.” In each of the doll’s hands were balls of cotton and printed out messages to “GO PICK COTTON.” Another note read: “WE FOUND YOU DICKHEAD.”

“I didn’t open the bag up, I didn’t touch anything. I called the police,” said Terry Williams, 49, several hours after the incident. Williams is Black, and lives in a house on Grove and Fillmore Streets. He grew up in the neighborhood and works as a dog walker for neighborhood pets.

On the midsection of the doll is a printed out photo of Williams smiling and holding a small dog. The n-word is written repeatedly over the photo.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, officers arrived at Williams’ home shortly after 7:10 a.m. on Friday, took a statement and collected the bag and doll as evidence. 

No arrests have been made at this time, but Public Information Officer Eve Laokwansathitaya stated that the case “is being actively investigated as a hate crime.” As of Tuesday, April 30, no progress was reported on the investigation.

Williams told the Bay View that, based on what police told him, he wasn’t confident their work would yield much. So far, Williams has taken matters into his own hands, asking neighbors next door and across the street for security camera footage. In total, he was able to get ahold of video from five different cameras.

In one clip, a dark, blurred figure walks slowly carrying a bag down Grove Street toward Fillmore Street at 12:32 a.m., stops outside Williams’ gate for 20 seconds before walking back up Grove Street toward Steiner Street. 

In clearer footage Williams obtained from neighbors, the suspect is draped in a dark, hooded coat over pants with a wide cuff and wearing dark shoes with a small heel. They appear to be walking with a slight limp on their right side and without any urgency. The suspect heads up toward Steiner Street and out of view, likely making a left onto Steiner Street or crossing the street into Alamo Square.

When Williams shared the videos with police, officers told him the footage was grainy and unlikely to help. They suggested that, after turning around and heading back up Grove Street, the person may have gotten into a car.

“It was after 9 p.m. on a Thursday night; there’s no parking around there then,” said Williams, dismissing the idea that the suspect drove to his house. “I just know [they live] around here.”

While no details about the suspect are known at this time, Williams said he has faced conflicts with other dog owners and neighbors in the park before, which sometimes have racial tones.

Since Friday, Williams has continued with his dog walking business along with taking his own dogs out around Alamo Square.

But, the incident left its mark. “It’s impacted the way I walk around,” said Williams. When he goes out, he makes sure to leave one of his two rottweilers at home with his parents, who live in the apartment upstairs from him.

“My parents are trying to be strong. But my mom’s worried,” said Williams.

Police ask that anyone with information contact SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411, beginning the message with SFPD.

Griffin Jones is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. She formerly worked at Mission Local, the San Francisco Bay View and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She can be reached at griffinforrestjones@gmail.com.