SF Bicycle Cop Struck, Severely Injured, Outside Opera Plaza Garage

The officer's damaged bike, from a KTVU report.
The officer's damaged bike, from a KTVU report.

Officer Elia Lewin-Tankel of the Tenderloin police station was critically injured while riding his bicycle beat yesterday afternoon. He was struck by a motorist on Turk Street, near the corner of Turk and Van Ness, outside the Opera Plaza garage. A suspect is in custody, although SFPD Detectives were still canvassing for witnesses this afternoon near where he was hit.

From the latest SFPD release:

He was struck by a fleeing suspect’s vehicle on the mid-block of Turk Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. After undergoing surgery yesterday, Ofc. Lewin-Tankel remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit. Elia Lewin-Tankel, 32 years of age, began his career with the San Francisco Police Department in 2012 and worked at several stations before being permanently assigned to Tenderloin Station in March 2016. Elia chose to be assigned to Tenderloin Police Station which is one of the busiest, most demanding districts, a testament to his dedication to serving the residents of San Francisco.

Officer Lewin Tankel, prior to the crash, in a photo provided by his family via the SFPD
Officer Lewin-Tankel, prior to the crash, in a photo provided by his family via the SFPD

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier issued the following statement:

Our deepest sympathies and best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to the officer injured in yesterday’s hit-and-run, to the officer’s family and to his colleagues at SFPD’s Tenderloin station. Every single time someone is seriously hurt biking in our city, it pains my heart. Knowing that this officer was struck trying to keep our city safe while investigating a case involving a firearm makes it that much more difficult.

Media outlets have reported that the motorist who hit the officer was driving a white Lexus SUV with stolen plates, which was later found abandoned. The suspect was taken into custody later yesterday afternoon, a few miles from the scene. The SF Examiner is reporting that officers were investigating a possible firearm violation on Turk Street and that the driver of the SUV spotted them and fled, striking Lewin-Tankel. A police officer in Opera Plaza today said the investigation is being handled as an attempted murder.

A police officer on a bike was critically injured outside this garage by a suspect driving an SUV. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A police officer on a bike was critically injured outside this garage by a suspect driving an SUV. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Turk, it’s worth noting, is a street that is slated for parking-protected bike lanes–a project that’s been repeatedly delayed and threatened. It’s unclear if parking-protected bike lanes would have made a difference in this case; we’ll see as more details emerge.

“The department is working to support Elia’s family and his colleagues,” according to a police statement sent this afternoon. “Elia’s family asks, ‘Everyone to send good energy and prayers for his recovery, which we know will happen, because Elia is a survivor.'”

  • John Murphy

    “the investigation is being handled as an attempted murder”

    While I applaud this decision, I wish it was a phrase I heard more often.

    Aaron Paff ran over 4 cyclists in Marin 2 weeks ago – with witnesses and video – and I never heard that phrase

  • maritherese

    So sad for the family and friends — and also the citizens of this community — that this officer was so badly injured. I hope his recovery is as complete as it can be, and no doubt a man who is “a survivor” can make that happen. It is one of the facts of life unfortunately that someone so lacking in character as the suspect could have such a destructive impact on another man of distinctive character. Life can be absolutely bizarre. Best!

  • GregKamin

    Probably because there is no evidence that the Marin case was murder. It was a hit-and-run though and the guy will do prison time.

    Not sure that cops who have to chase down armed felons in vehicles should be on a bike, however.

  • John Murphy

    There is no evidence in either case of murder because thankfully all of the victims are alive.

    They have a video of Mr Paff swerving to the right, mowing down the cyclists, veering to the left and driving off. He’s been charged with hit and run and very well may be charged with more later, but they charged him with that they easily could in order to make bail.

    Do we have evidence that the man who hit the cop *intended* to hit the cop, and to kill him? Caveat: when you are fleeing a crime scene a lot of things are implied. That might be what’s going on here.

  • GregKamin

    It may be, that’s true. But a swerve does not imply intent – vehicles swerve for many reasons some of which are beyond a driver’s control.

    This was possibly deliberate and maybe even probably deliberate. But beyond a reasonable doubt requires more than that, for a jury. “Implied” does not meet the required burden of proof, at least for a conviction for attempted murder.

  • Both could be cases of mechanical failure, let’s not use any sense of judgement.

  • John Murphy

    The man who ran over the cop has not been convicted by a jury, has he?

    The standard for filing charges is not “beyond a reasonable doubt” – if so then we would not need any trials.

  • GregKamin

    Agreed, or could be a medical incident, or a momentary distraction, followed by fear.

    Unlikely, I think, but not impossible. Any cyclist, pedestrian or even other driver is potentially vulnerable to a lack of control over a vehicle.

  • And then they drive home to get some aspirin to deal with that heart attack or headache or NextDoor business deal instead of stopping.

  • GregKamin

    Leaving the scene is consistent with a deliberate act but does not prove it. Could just be shock or fear of retaliation, or a “Bonfire of the Vanities” moment.

    Even in the case of your mechanical failure theory, panic, fear or shock may have kicked in.

  • And as a good open-minded person who makes Comments, it would be morally offensive to make any sort of conclusion with the information at hand.
    Maybe that heart-attack fixed itself and when the motorcycle recorded him speeding away the driver had switched to another personality who didn’t know anything about the swerve that was done by a 4-year-old personality. Because if someone jumped to a conclusion in the Comments, they’re gonna get a stern lecture.

  • GregKamin

    More likely a temporary health issue like a seizure, or a violent cramp, cough or sneeze. The subsequent departure could be caused by panic, shock or fear of retaliation. At least that is what the defense lawyer will no doubt argue.

    But I prefer your mechanical fault explanation.

  • Well, since we’re just speculating and using our own judgement based on the reported facts, I guess we’re back to seeing the original post in this thread as just as valid, aren’t we?

  • GregKamin

    You mean “Both could be cases of mechanical failure”?

    I said it was unlikely. But the issue is whether your theory constitutes reasonable doubt in the minds of a jury.

  • Whoa there champ, we haven’t even started jury selection.

  • GregKamin

    It will get pled down to dangerous driving etc. I doubt there will be a jury given the difficulty of proving intent to kill.

  • Then why are you talking about the minds of the jury?

  • GregKamin

    Because you started developing defense arguments

  • Pretty sure you were working for the defense, before I event commented my snarky comment about not allowing ourselves to apply any judgement you were working it:
    “Probably because there is no evidence that the Marin case was murder. It was a hit-and-run though and the guy will do prison time.”
    “But a swerve does not imply intent – vehicles swerve for many reasons some of which are beyond a driver’s control.
    This was possibly deliberate and maybe even probably deliberate. But beyond a reasonable doubt requires more than that, for a jury.”

  • GregKamin

    Wait, so now you’re saying you know the driver is guilty?

    After making excuses for him?

  • Did somebody fail a misdirection roll?

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