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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 said Friday.

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 case.

"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," Newsom continued.

"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 it."

Newsom met yesterday with Police and District Attorney officials to begin the process.




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