Officials huddle to restore trust
in witness protection following Bayview murder
By Pat Murphy
May 6, 2006
If keeping witnesses alive who are willing to testify in court
"is a money issue we're going to solve it," Mayor Newsom
Newsom made the pledge one day after fragile witness trust was
shaken by the murder of 22-year-old Tyrell Rollins in Rollins'
Bayview home neighborhood Thursday.
Despite his pledge to submit an increased witness protection
budget if necessary, the mayor stated he expects the Rollins murder
resulted "as a question of protocol."
Rollins had been relocated out of San Francisco through the City's
witness protection program after Rollins identified two men involved
in a 2005 Bayview murder.
Rollins was recognized and shot dead at 10:15 a.m. Thursday as
he returned for auto repairs to the City Auto Tech repair shop
at 269 Bayshore Boulevard.
Witness protection officials stated Rollins repeatedly was advised
to stay out of San Francisco.
"We want to investigate the facts without pointing the finger
at the victim, saying, 'Well he didn't play to the protocols,'
" Newsom told reporters following a tour of Mission District
Cinco de Mayo festivities.
"It requires that we review exactly the protocols that were
in place with the District Attorney's witness protection program.
"They're are two different witness protection programs.
You have the first phase in the Police Department and then it
transfers over into the D.A.'s Office.
"We want to make that the protocols were at work in this
"I want to make sure that we have enough resources if that
is the issue, but I'm not convinced that is. I think that will
be an excuse - that it's not the issue.
"I've got a budget coming up in the next few weeks that
I'm going to be submitting and if it is a money issue we're going
to solve it.
"But that to me is not likely the most issue here. It is
a question of protocol and it's a matter of trying to make sure
that this doesn't happen again," Newsom announced.
Many homicide prosecutions in San Francisco are stymied because
witnesses unwilling to risk their lives to testify, stressed Newsom.
"It is a matter of life and death not only as it relates
to this literal experience but broadly speaking in terms of us
having a partnership with the community to resolve these crimes,"
"I've been talking about this for years - we know exactly
who is committing these murders. The community knows who commits
murders. The police officers know who commits murders. And the
mothers of victims know who commits these murders.
"And we can't do anything about it because no one wants
to tell us what they saw.
"When someone is brave enough to step forward as a witness
and then gets killed that takes this whole effort back a long
time - and it's not about money at that point.
"It's about confidence and trust and we've got to restore
Newsom met yesterday with Police and District Attorney officials
to begin the process.