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Charges may be dropped in brutal attack on former San Francisco Fire Commissioner in Marina District

Charges may be dropped in brutal attack on former San Francisco Fire Commissioner in Marina District
Charges may be dropped in brutal attack on former San Francisco Fire Commissioner in Marina District 06:24

SAN FRANCISCO – Prosecutors have alerted former San Francisco Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani they will be moving to dismiss charges in a brutal beating he suffered outside his mother's home in the city's Marina District earlier this month, according to his attorney.

The 52-year-old Carmigiani was beaten with a metal rod and suffered severe head injuries, including a fractured skull. Hours earlier, he and his mother called 911 to report three homeless people set up an encampment at her home, saying they made threats of violence to his family.

UPDATE: Defense attorney calls police reports related to Carmignani Marina District assault 'shocking'

Carmigiani said that neither the San Francisco Police Department nor homeless service providers responded to 911 calls. That evening, he stopped by the home and after asking the group to leave, he said two people moved toward him in a threatening manner, with one attacking him with the rod.

In his first public statements since the attack, Carmignani told KPIX the District Attorney's Office alerted his lawyer that they will be moving to dismiss the case based on new evidence that they have received - including video of a person prosecutors claim is Carmignani using bear spray against homeless people in another incident.

Interview: Former SF Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani says charges may be dropped in brutal attack 11:43

Carmignani denies he is the person in the video and said the decision to dismiss the case came as a surprise to him. He is still healing from his severe injuries and said his doctor told him if his attacker hit him in a particular spot one more time, he would have lost his life.

"When I was running away, the impact hit my skull," he said. "They cracked my jaw from here all the way down and they put a plate in from here all the way here." 

Carmignani's attorney said the assistant district attorney said the office now considers the incident self-defense and indicated other evidence of attacks on homeless people believed to have been committed by Carmignani has led to the decision to dismiss the case. 

"I didn't go out there to fight anyone. I'm trying to get them down the road, go to the park," said Carmignani. "It's three-on-one. I know odds. I'm 52 years old. I have two hip replacements. I'm an old guy, I could have been a dead guy."

Following the attack, 24-year-old Garret Allen Doty was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with serious bodily injury, and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Doty's public defender, Kleigh Hathaway, told reporters Wednesday that in the last 24 hours, her office had received new information about what appears to be a pattern of incidents allegedly involving Carmignani, all within a four-block radius of the Marina District home.

"The district attorney and the police have now reason to believe that Mr. Carmignani was involved in eight - eight - separate acts of violence," said Hathaway. "These eight separate acts of violence were perpetrated against people who are homeless. The district attorney and the police gave us, the defense, yesterday, these police reports because they believe these acts are related to Mr. Carmignan."

Hathaway said the video she has seen of a person resembling Carmignani attacking a homeless person on the same street as his Marina District home is "shocking."

"It shows a man, asleep, on the sidewalk outside, and I would bet anything it's Mr. Carmignani, he walks up and he sprays with a massive can of bear spray, the same weapon used in the Doty incident, he sprays this bear spray at the homeless, not just passing by but focusing on the victim's face for at least a few seconds. And then he walks away."

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said Wednesday her office had requested that the preliminary hearing be continued to Thursday due to Carmignani being unavailable to testify in court.

"We were notified by Mr. Carmignani's lawyers, the victim in the case, that Mr. Carmignani was not available to testify today. He is a necessary witness in this case for a number of reasons given many factual allegations that have come up," Jenkins said. "Without him present to testify, that created evidentiary problems for us."

The court granted the request to move the date of the preliminary hearing to Thursday and the judge in the case said if Carmignani doesn't show up, he'll order prosecutors to drop the case.

Carmignani says now he may even be prosecuted for discharging pepper spray. 

"I used the spray as self-defense. I never went after him," he told KPIX. "I never went across the street to try and fight him. That was never my goal."

He said he actually misused the pepper spray and sprayed himself during the attack, never hitting the suspect. 

Carmignani noted neither the police department nor the DA's office has interviewed him to get his version of the events.

Cellphone image shows Garrett Doty swinging a metal rod at Don Carmignani in the parking lot of a gas station in San Francisco's Marina District, April 5, 2023. Samuel Ray

Carmignani said he is sad about this new development, and he believes the city is in a complete state of chaos. He says the suspect is a threat to the community and he and his family fear for their lives living in the Marina District. 

He said he thinks the city's government has failed its residents, though he stopped short of completely blaming District Attorney Jenkins, saying he thinks politicians have their hands tied. 

Cellphone video image of attack on former San Francisco Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani  CBS

Following the attack, both Jenkins and Police Chief Bill Scott said the attack was the kind of street crime that has shaken the city and that they were both committed to combating.

"I understand how a violent attack like this can shake a community and I am committed to ensuring that the defendant is held accountable, so that we send the strongest message that violence like this is unacceptable," the district attorney said in a statement at the time. "I am sending strength to the victim as he continues his recovery, and we will do everything in our power to seek justice for the victim and the community that has been traumatized."

"Our hearts go out to him and his family," Scott told KPIX following the attack. "He's expected to survive his injuries which is good news. But these types of brutal attacks and these types of brazen attacks, these are the kinds of things that have people anxious."

Doty would face up to seven years in state prison if convicted of all charges.

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