A mentally ill homeless man who frequents Glen Park and spent a year in jail and a year in a locked psychiatric ward after an elderly resident died subsequent to an altercation with him, is back in the neighborhood.
On June 10, Peter Rocha was acquitted of murder in the May 2020 death of Leo Hainzl in Glen Canyon Park. Rocha, who often slept outside of St. John School on Chenery Street, had been a fixture in the neighborhood for several years prior to Hainzl’s death and was known to menace residents, particularly those with dogs.
Rocha was arrested and jailed after the incident. In September 2020 he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial and was ordered to be detained in a locked psychiatric facility for up to two years. Due to a shortage of available beds, compounded by COVID-19, Rocha remained in San Francisco county jail until he was transferred to a hospital in December 2020.
He was subsequently put on trial, acquitted, and released back into the community on June 11 without any resources to help him with his ongoing mental illness and homelessness. It should be noted that Rocha has declined services in the past.
For further background read a Glen Park News story about Hainzl published several days after he died, a column by the Chronicle’s Heather Knight, and a post by Glen Park News editor Elizabeth Weise.
According to District 8 Public Safety Liaison Dave Burke, since his release Rocha has been spotted in Glen Canyon Park by a few neighbors, one of whom said he yelled at her from a distance about her dog. Since he’s been acquitted, there’s nothing the police and legal system can do. However, Burke and Supervisor Mandelman said they are going to lean hard on the Department of Public Health to get Rocha some kind of mental health services and hopefully find him shelter away from our neighborhood.
At the monthly Ingleside Station Community Meeting on June 21, it was stated that there is no way to require Rocha to leave Glen Park because he is currently doing nothing illegal. SFPD and Supervisor Mandelman have been doing aggressive outreach to get mental health services to Rocha. SFPD Sgt. Christina O’Bannon and Dave Burke have both been to Glen Park looking for him.
Rocha has been seen by park employees who are familiar with him from two years ago. According to Glen Canyon Park recreation center staff, Rocha sleeps in the park, spends lots of time in the bathroom in the morning, and hangs out in the park the rest of the day. Sgt. O’Bannon, Captain Lew, and Burke are contacting the Veterans Administration (Rocha is a former Marine.), the SFPD Crisis Intervention Team and the Department of Public Health to get him help.
Apparently, he looks much the same as he did before, according to park employees.
Residents are advised to steer clear of Rocha if they see him. If he (or anyone else for that matter) acts in a violent or threatening manner, call 911.