Citizens intervene in scuffle between San Francisco officer, homeless man

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- A group of Good Samaritans recently came to the aid of a San Francisco police officer who was being attacked by a homeless man.

Kirill Zubaryev was waiting for a bus across the street from the corner of La Playa and Cabrillo in the city's Outer Richmond District when he noticed a scuffle break out between a police officer and a homeless man. He started recording the incident on his cell phone.

"Next thing I know the police officer is yelling for help," Zubaryev said. "I'm like 'OK, I should probably get over there and see what I can do."

The incident occurred on the evening of Feb. 19 in front of a Safeway store on Ocean Beach. Witnesses told KTVU the officer calmly approached the man who police say was high on drugs while exposing and touching himself.

"The next thing you know the homeless man jumps on him," Zubrayev said.

Video from the incident shows bystanders running to the officer's rescue. They helped pry the homeless man off the officer and pinned the suspect to the ground.

"The fact that we had citizens who came to the assistance of the officer was really helpful and a great feeling that people are out there (who will) help and support," said Officer Giselle Talkoff with SFPD. "It became a very dangerous situation for the officer. And even for the public to view something like that it's pretty scary."

"I'm glad the officer showed restraint, he did the right thing he didn't reach for his gun," Zubrayev said. "He tried to get the man on the ground without hurting him."

The incident raises fresh questions about the department's use of force policies since less lethal options are now limited. Officers can no longer use the carotid restraint and tasers have never been allowed.

"The police officer doesn't know if this individual has a weapon, whether it be a knife, a shiv, a screwdriver or even a gun, and the officer no longer has the opportunity to use the carotid restraint to get this individual into custody and we've never been afforded tasers so it makes our job that much more difficult," said Martin Halloran, president of the San Francisco Police Officers' Association.

New police Chief Bill Scott is an avid supporter of Tasers.

More police officers arrived on scene within minutes of the incident and the suspect was taken into custody. The officer only suffered cuts and bruises.

For Zubrayev, it was a lesson in what it means to be a Good Samaritan.

"The [people who helped the officer] were good people," he said. They did the right thing and looking back at it, I kind of wish I had done more."

By KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty