San Francisco

Violent street attack crushes return to office bid of major Fi-Di corporation, court hears

Efforts to bring staff back to the office of a major San Francisco financial district employer were “shot” after an employee was violently assaulted on a nearby street by a man suffering “a psychotic break”, a court heard today.

Melvin Bulauan, 42, “skipped” towards the commuter walking at the junction of Kearny and Post Streets and punched him with such force as to leave pools of blood on the sidewalk and the victim in hospital undergoing surgery.  

“No one feels safe coming back to work downtown or riding BART,” the victim said in a statement read to the court. “All efforts to bring people back to the office have been shot” as a consequence of the July attack, he said.  

“He is a violent and dangerous individual who shouldn’t be on our streets.”  

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing this morning Judge Michael Rhoads determined that there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

“By clear and convincing evidence there is a substantial likelihood that his release would result in great bodily injury to others,” Rhoads said, granting prosecutors’ request to keep Bulauan in custody pending the outcome of the case.  

Bulauan faces one felony count of battery with great bodily injury and one felony count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.  

He had been convicted six days earlier in San Francisco Superior Court of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

On July 11 2023 the victim, employed in the office of the California president of a major corporation, located in the financial district, was attacked out of the blue.  

“[He] was simply walking to work…and was randomly punched in the face,” Assistant District Attorney Abigail Adams told the court.  

“The force was so great it knocked his head back, broke his nose and required surgery,” she added. The court was shown photographs of the victim in the back of an ambulance and of blood that had coursed to the ground.  

Bulauan was arrested by police in the Tenderloin neighborhood two weeks later, after a department-wide bulletin was distributed asking officers to be on the lookout for him.  

“I’ve arrested Mr Bulauan once in 2022 and I’ve seen him around the Tenderloin approximately once a month,” said arresting SFPD officer Huyen Nguyen.  

His rap sheet includes a previous San Francisco conviction for assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury – a conviction recorded on July 5 2023, six days before the attack in this case.

In that matter, court records show, Bulauan threw a rock into a man’s face at 7:30am on July 3, 2022 near the junction of 18th and Mission Streets.

His public defender successfully persuaded the court to throw out allegations of great bodily injury – arguing that the victim’s facial injuries “were not significant or substantial.”  

He pleaded guilty to a single count of felony assault and was sentenced to a “low term” two years in state prison on July 5, 2023 by Judge Bruce Chan.

Because Bulauan had served 368 days in county jail – time which was ‘half time credit’ eligible – he was deemed to have served 736 days and immediately released.  

Less than a week later he smashed the face of his next victim.

“This was an incident committed by someone not in their right mind,” said deputy public defender Olivia Taylor. Her client had a long mental health history, she noted, including diagnoses of schizo-affective and bipolar disorders.

“He was experiencing the effect of a psychotic break at the time of the offense.”  

Only hours later, she said, Bulauan was subject to a 5150 psychiatric hold.

In a statement read to the court in support of the District Attorney’s office motion to detain, the victim said that he had previously had a “false sense of security” when walking past people with mental illnesses while commuting.  

As a result of the attack he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder.  

All efforts to bring colleagues back to his office were “shot,” he said, as a consequence of his attack. “No one feels safe coming back to work or riding BART.”  

“I am saddled with thousands of dollars in medical costs, just for walking to work downtown,” he added.  

“[Bulauan] is a violent and dangerous individual who shouldn’t be on our streets.”

Superior Court Judge Michael Rhoads, sitting in Department 11, this morning held Bulauan to answer for the charges.  

“As to counts one and two I find the People have presented satisfactory evidence that they were committed by Mr Bulauan,” Rhoads said, noting that he found the victim witness and his identification of the defendant to be “quite credible”.  

He denied a request by the defense to downgrade the offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.  

He granted a motion to detain Bulauan pending trial. “By clear and convincing evidence there is a substantial likelihood that his release would result in great bodily injury to others,” he said.  

Bulauan will next appear in court before criminal presiding judge Rochelle East in Department 22 on August 28 at 9:00am.  

San Fran­cisco Po­lice De­part­ment declined to pro­vide a book­ing photo from one of Mr Bulauan’s pre­vi­ous city ar­rests, cit­ing a de­part­ment pol­icy not to re­lease pho­tos.

“This pol­icy,” said SFPD Chief William Scott in 2020, “emerges from com­pelling re­search sug­gest­ing that the wide­spread pub­li­ca­tion of po­lice book­ing pho­tos in the news and on so­cial me­dia cre­ates an il­lu­sory cor­re­la­tion for view­ers that fos­ters racial bias and vastly over­states the propen­sity of black and brown men to en­gage in crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.”

This story was updated on August 18, 2023 with details of Bulauan’s 2022 assault conviction.

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