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San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Urges District Attorney to Drop Charges Against Unhoused Man Who Acted in Self-Defense When Bear Sprayed

Evidence shows complaining witness initiated altercation; Video evidence indicates other similar attacks against unhoused individuals occurred in same area

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Public Defender’s office is seeking to have charges against client Garret Doty dropped, given new evidence that the District Attorney’s office turned over to our office yesterday indicating that former S.F. Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani instigated the altercation with Doty, and may be involved in a series of unsolved bear spray assaults and a robbery against unhoused people in the Cow Hollow and Marina neighborhoods.

Doty, who is unhoused, was approached by Marina District resident Don Carmignani on April 5. In a video of the April 5 confrontation, Carmignani is seen initially approaching Doty with spray in hand. This video is part of the evidence that the prosecution turned over to the Public Defender’s office yesterday. An argument between the two men ensued. A third party witness told police that she heard Carmignani threaten to stab and kill Doty if he did not leave the area. Doty responded to Mr. Carmignani in self-defense.

The evidence turned over by the prosecution includes information on eight separate incidents in which a man in the Cow Hollow and Marina Districts, who fits the physical description of Carmignani, approaches unhoused individuals — unprovoked — and sprays them with bear or pepper spray. Bear spray generally has a higher concentration of the capsaicin chemical than ordinary pepper spray. Prosecutors turned over this evidence because they considered it relevant to the circumstances involving Doty. 

Another video was turned over of a separate incident from November 2021, where an assailant approaches a sleeping unhoused man and sprays him, taking extra steps to spray him intensely in the face. While the identity of the assailant has never been confirmed, the prosecution indicated that it may be Camignani and therefore relevant or exculpatory to the prosecution of Doty.

Here are the eight reported incidents of an assailant bear-spraying unhoused individuals in the Cow Hollow and Marina Districts, according to evidence disclosed by the District Attorney’s office: 

  • Nov. 6, 2021: Assailant bear sprayed an unhoused individual on Magnolia Street (the above video is of this incident). Victim was sleeping.
  • October 13, 2022: An assailant bear sprayed an unhoused individual in the face at Webster and Union.
  • October 24, 2022: An assailant bear sprayed two unhoused individuals who were sitting on a bench at Buchanan and Greenwich.
  • Nov. 10, 2022: An assailant bear sprayed two unhoused individuals at Union and Fillmore; One of the victims had been sleeping.
  • Nov. 11, 2022: An assailant bear sprayed an unhoused individual at Lombard and Pierce; Victim was sleeping in tent; assailant unzipped tent and bear sprayed into it and said “Get out of my town.”
  • Nov. 24, 2022: An assailant verbally threatened an unhoused individual on the 2100 block of Van Ness Ave. and bear sprayed him a few minutes later.
  • Dec. 7, 2022: An assailant bear sprayed an unhoused individual in the face at Lombard and Broderick.
  • Jan. 6, 2023: An assailant bear sprayed an unhoused man and woman, took the woman’s wallet, her cell phone and earrings and picked up and threw a dog belonging to one of the victims to the ground. 
  • April 5, 2023: Mr. Carmignani bear sprayed San Francisco Public Defender client Garret Doty near the intersection of Laguna and Magnolia streets.

Doty, who is in custody in San Francisco County Jail, was in court today for his preliminary hearing, but it was delayed because Carmignani did not come to court. The hearing was rescheduled for Thursday, April 27 at 9 a.m. in Department 20 at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St. 



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