A sci-fi man with a troubled history is accused of bringing a gun to a school. The courts and the health care system failed him

The first disturbing text arrived at 5:32 p.m. on Tuesday from the San Francisco fire chief. She told supervisor Rafael Mandelman that a man had climbed the famous Castro Theater, allegedly damaging the beloved neon sign, throwing heavy objects from the roof and undressing.

Mandelman received an even more shocking text from the police early in the afternoon. Another man had been arrested the day before for carrying a loaded gun to the campus of New Traditions, an elementary school near Panhandle, where he allegedly tried to enter through the side entrance of the school on several occasions and accosted children and parents.

Both men are now in prison – again. And San Franciscans wonder – once again – why such a wealthy, compassionate and innovative city can’t do better with its sickest residents and those who cross their path in their darkest times.

The two men involved in these events have extensive criminal histories and clear signs of substance use disorders or mental illness. Both are well known to municipal authorities and the police. And both have repeatedly toured the criminal justice system or the health care system with seemingly unsuccessful success in staying healthy.

The pair also demonstrate the failures of the San Francisco and California mental health systems and the risks these failures pose to ordinary people. Fortunately, no one was injured in the two incidents, but they could easily have been, including the suspects themselves.

“It makes you feel like you’re living in a state of failure,” said Mandelman, whose own mother was struggling with severe mental illness. “It makes me wonder if we are making any progress at all.”

The vast majority of people with substance use disorders or mental illnesses will never be a danger to others and are more likely to harm themselves than someone else. But for those who are potentially and repeatedly violent, the city does not provide enough guarantees.

The bizarre chain of events began Tuesday afternoon when someone from New Traditions called 911 to report that a potentially armed and mentally ill man was making threatening gestures and inconsistent statements to families at the outside the school.

Police spokesman Matt Dorsey said when police responded, Brandon Paillett, 39, told them he had no weapons and threw his backpack at the officers. It was then that a loaded Smith and Wesson .38 fell out of his pocket. Police took Paillett into custody and secured the gun.

“Sir. Paillett is a prolific and often violent criminal offender,” Dorsey said.

District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sara Yousuf said the office filed three felony charges against Paillett in the wake of Tuesday’s incident: possession of a gun in the compound. school, possession of a firearm with a felony conviction and carrying a loaded firearm. The office requests his detention without bail.

“We take these allegations very seriously,” she said. “No child, parent or teacher should have to fear for their safety.”

If Paillett’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he made the headlines just six weeks ago for allegedly breaking into the home of a disabled woman in the Castro. The 62-year-old has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk.

At approximately 11:30 p.m. on July 20, Paillett reportedly walked into the woman’s house, took off his shoes, sat in a chair and started talking to someone who was not there. The woman said the shock knocked her off the sofa. She called 911 from the ground and the police arrived but could not enter because Paillett had locked the door.

” I was so scared. There was no way to escape. I can’t get up and run away, ”she told me. She yelled for the police to kick down the door, which they did, before helping her sit down and arresting Paillett.

The district attorney’s office charged him with forcible confinement, resisting an agent and trespassing. Yousuf said Paillett, who was supervised by the adult probation service, served 39 days in a court-ordered residential treatment program. This means that there was virtually no gap between his release from the treatment facility and his loaded gun on a school campus.

There was also virtually no gap – barely five days – between Castro’s break-in and Paillett’s release from prison in a carjacking and kidnapping case. He was arrested on June 3 after allegedly attempting to steal a pet groomer’s van while the pet groomer was inside, according to KTVU.

In an interview with KTVU prison in July following the break-in of the disabled woman’s house, Paillett said he was summoned there and heard voices in his head, including that of by classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Paillett was arrested six more times dating from 2019, KTVU reported. Tenderloin Police tweeted in July 2019 that they had held Paillett on 11 counts, accusing him of stealing a Tesla and leading police in a high-speed chase.

In the Castro Theater incident, police arrested 33-year-old William Quezali after he allegedly climbed to the roof, made inconsistent statements, undressed and masturbated. Police said he damaged the neon sign and threw heavy objects on the street.

The police ended up belittling him. Yousuf said the district attorney’s office charged Quezali with three counts of vandalism and one count of trespassing.

A 2013 Chronicle story said Quezali had been arrested five times in the past few months for standing in traffic and hitting cars on Market Street, fighting with Safeway security and doing naked shadow boxing at the Ferry Building before jumping into the bay.

Another time, he stood on a ledge of the Embarcadero shopping complex, throwing stones and leading to a nine-hour standoff with the police. He was repeatedly held for 72 hours in psychiatric detention at San Francisco General Hospital and released.

Quezali climbed part of the Ferry Building in 2015, shouting and throwing objects at pedestrians below. His then public defender told The Chronicle: “He has been suicidal for 6 years and has been in and out of hospitals his entire life.”

The Department of Public Health was unable to comment on Paillett or Quezali’s treatment or lack of treatment due to privacy laws. The Public Defender’s Office said on Thursday that he had not yet been assigned to either case, but that in general, those accused of crimes have to wait a long time to access mental health treatment, making the less likely positive results.

Dr Paul Linde, who has treated patients in SF General’s psychiatric emergency room for 25 years, said San Francisco needs to force more people into mandatory treatment under state law and has need more psychiatric treatment beds to do so.

“The city must start doing what the law allows and not be so concerned about offending certain interest groups,” he said, referring to civil rights activists who argue that a expansion of involuntary detentions will lead to abuse.

Under state guardianship laws, people may be forced into treatment if they present a danger to themselves or others or if they are severely disabled and unable to eat, clothe and to find accommodation.

Linde said he would also like state law to be changed so that anyone who is required to undergo treatment can also be required to take antipsychotic medication; currently, these require two separate hearings before a judge. He said there was a good reason for the split when the law was written decades ago, but the drugs now have a lot fewer side effects and work a lot better.

“The irony is that we are making it difficult to get these drugs into the system for people who really need them desperately,” he said.

Rachel Rodriguez, a psychiatric social worker, said the city’s mental health programs are strong – but we need more. She said after noon every day almost all treatment beds are full and it’s almost impossible to get them at night or on weekends.

“I would like it to be 24/7 access to care anytime they’re ready for it,” she said.

She said the city also needed more treatment beds at all levels, including locked down treatment facilities, which would force more people into treatment.

Mandelman created a list of the most seriously disturbed people in his district two years ago in an attempt to ask them for help, but it hasn’t done much. A woman on the list has died of an overdose and a man on the list has been charged with murder. The list has grown from 17 people in December to 35 now; Paillett was there because of the Castro robbery, but Quezali wasn’t.

Mandelman said the city needed more short-term interventions like sobering up centers and emergency psychiatric placements, as well as more locked down facilities and nursing homes.

“We can improve crisis awareness and response, but if there are no places to take people in crisis and long-term placements to avoid the crisis, our streets will continue to be chaotic and very sick people will continue to suffer. ,” he said.

The Mayor of London Breed’s new budget includes money for 400 new treatment beds, but only 140 will open this year.

When I told Castro’s wife that the man who broke into her home just six weeks ago was arrested with a loaded gun on a school campus, she gasped.

“Oh my God, this is so sad,” she said. “I didn’t want to see him severely punished, but I wanted to see him get help.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

She’s right. It doesn’t make sense – to him or to the rest of San Francisco.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @hknightsf


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