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Knife-wielding maniac knocks out San Francisco churchgoer, then leads cops on a chase punctuated by explosions: Police
YouTube video, KTVU-TV - Screenshot

Knife-wielding maniac knocks out San Francisco churchgoer, then leads cops on a chase punctuated by explosions: Police

A felon with a history of blowing things up attacked a churchgoer and led police on an explosive chase through San Francisco Sunday night, according to the San Francisco Police Department. When captured, the suspect allegedly asked his arresting officer how many points he had racked up on Grand Theft Auto.

The SFPD indicated that officers responded just before 6 p.m. on Sunday to a report of a man brandishing a knife and assaulting a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul Church across from Washington Square Park in the North Beach neighborhood.

KPIX-TV reported that the suspect waltzed into the church and demanded money from a parishioner whom he did not know.

"The parishioner continued to pray and ignored him, at which point the suspect then violently assaulted this parishioner, punching him in the head," said SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar. "We believe the parishioner went unconscious temporarily."

Other parishioners rushed to the victim's rescue and called 911 while the suspect continued demanding money with a folding knife in hand.

Officers arrived on the scene within minutes of the incident and spotted the suspect stealing into a vehicle and preparing to flee the scene. They called for medical aid for the victim, then gave chase.

The SFPD noted that the suspect, who has been identified as 42-year-old Concord resident Daniel Garcia, failed to yield to pursuing officers. Instead, police said Garcia threw two improvised explosive devices at pursuing officers.

The first went off in the 1500 block of Jones Street.

"The officers described not only seeing the flames of the device that hit the ground, but when the bomb detonated, they could feel the blowback of that in their vehicles," said Lazar. "They believe the suspect intentionally tried to seriously injure or kill them."

Garcia threw the second IED at police near 8th and Mission, according to Lazar.

The San Francisco Standard noted that a police officer can be heard on scanner audio recordings reporting, "He threw another bomb. ... It blew up on Mission," at 6:04 p.m..

One of the IEDs was reportedly a pipe bomb, and the other was a Molotov cocktail.

Garcia allegedly attempted to lose police on the freeway, taking I-80 eastbound, where California Highway Patrol joined the chase.

It appears that Garcia gave up on allegedly attempting to murder police officers while on the freeway, as a CHP spokesman told KGO-TV, "No incendiaries were thrown during our portion of the pursuit, however, items were located in the vehicle at the termination point."

Roughly 30 minutes later, he wrecked his vehicle in Martinez and was captured by police.

Garcia was booked into the San Francisco County Jail and charged with second-degree robbery; assault with a deadly weapon; threatening an officer; three counts of attempted murder; three counts of possession of an explosive; evading an officer with willful disregard; two counts of explosion of destructive device with intent to murder; two counts of explosion of destructive device with intent to injure; three counts of carrying an explosive in a passenger vehicle for hire; resisting, obstructing, and/or delaying of a peace officer or EMT; and various traffic infractions.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin of North Beach indicated that upon his arrest, Garcia asked an officer "how many points he got in his Grand Theft Auto game" — a video game series featuring a star system corresponding to the level of attention the player's murder and mayhem has warranted from the in-game police.

"In 23 years of doing this stuff, this is probably the most bizarre," said Peskin.

On Monday, heavily armed police and a bomb disposal robot checked out Garcia's property. Officers reportedly left the residence with loaded brown paper bags and a box of what appeared to be glass bottles.

His neighbor, Stephen Salbato, said, "He's someone who never smiled."

This is not Garcia's first run-in with the law.

Garcia was convicted and sentenced in 2012 to 35 years in a federal prison for "malicious use of explosives, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, and two counts of possession of unregistered destructive devices."

He planted a bomb underneath an SUV belonging to his former tenant beside an apartment building in Fairfield. The bomb went off, sending shrapnel into both the vehicle and the neighboring building, where children and others were sleeping.

Garcia had apparently targeted the former tenant because he had left behind trash when moving out.

The U.S. attorney at the time said, "The defendant’s attempt to resolve a minor private dispute by detonating a bomb endangered the lives of all those who were sleeping in the apartment building in Fairfield that night. While it is fortunate that no one was harmed, the defendant’s actions, together with his possession of a second bomb in the residential neighborhood where he lived, merit a long prison sentence."

Evidently, Garcia did not serve the entirety of his prison sentence.

The Standard reported that the bomber was released in February 2019 after he successfully challenged his conviction on one of his charges.

Garcia was also arrested in May on domestic violence charges and for illegally owning a firearm. KPIX indicated he was scheduled to appear in a Contra Costa courtroom to face those charges on Tuesday.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News. He lives in a small town with his wife and son, moonlighting as an author of science fiction.
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