The parolee accused of fatally striking two pedestrians in downtown San Francisco on New Year's Eve, speeding through a red light in a stolen Honda while intoxicated, allegedly swiped the car from a woman he had met on an app, leaving his date stranded outside a fast food restaurant in Daly City.
According to documents obtained by The Chronicle, the woman reported the Dec. 29 theft at Nation's Giant Hamburgers to Daly City police that afternoon — two days before the tragic collision at Second and Mission streets in the South of Market neighborhood.
The woman told officers that she had been on a second date with Troy Ramon McAlister, 45, when he snatched her keys away from her at about noon as the two waited for an order of food. He peeled away in her gray 2017 Honda HR-V, she said, while giving her the middle finger.
The woman gave officers McAlister's name and address and said he had shown her a 9mm pistol with an extended ammunition magazine. Daly City police soon identified McAlister as a parolee, the Dec. 29 police report shows, and wrote that they would follow up on the investigation five days later, on Sunday, Jan. 3.
Then on Dec. 31, Daly City police learned from San Francisco police that the Honda had been in the fatal wreck. McAlister was arrested after allegedly trying to flee the crash scene on foot, and they closed the case. The pistol was recovered, officials said.
The documents shed new light on the events leading to the tragedy that left 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-year-old Hanako Abe dead, and raise additional questions about whether more could have been done to prevent it.
Daly City officials did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, and it is unclear whether officers attempted to make contact with McAlister after taking the theft report. Car thefts are fairly common crimes: San Francisco gets 10 to 20 reports per day, and Daly City investigates about 200 cases a year.
The fatal crash has already prompted criticism of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
McAlister, who has a long criminal record, was on parole because he robbed a San Francisco store with a gun in 2015. Last April, under a plea deal with Boudin's office, McAlister received a sentence of five years. With time served, he was released immediately.
In the months between his release and the crash, McAlister was arrested several times in San Francisco, on suspicion of crimes including car theft, auto burglary, possession of burglary tools and violating the terms of his parole. But the District Attorney's Office did not charge him with any new crimes and instead referred the matter to state parole.
While details of each case have not been released, McAlister was repeatedly returned to the streets, only to allegedly commit more crimes.
Boudin has defended referring the cases to parole officers, who can seek to imprison those who violate the terms of their release. He said his office "believed there was a greater likelihood of him being held accountable." But he conceded that it "was a mistake to think parole supervision would be adequate."
A spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the agency's parole office "followed all procedures after these incidents, including conducting investigations and making appropriate referrals for the individual."
"None of the parolee's arrests following his 2020 release have yet to result in the filing of criminal charges by the district attorney," the corrections spokesperson said.
It was just before 5 p.m. last Tuesday when Daly City police responded to the parking lot of Nation's in Westlake Center, off John Daly Boulevard, to take a report of a stolen vehicle. The victim told officers she had met a man on a dating app called Tagged, and that he went by the name "Ray," according to the police report.
The two had been chatting for several weeks, the woman told officers, and Tuesday was their second time meeting in person. The woman said they hung out for a few hours beginning around 8 a.m., when she went to his home in San Francisco.
They ran some errands together in her car, the woman said. At one point she saw her date drop an envelope addressed to Troy R. McAlister. Later, when the two were talking, the woman said "Ray" opened his backpack and showed her a gun with an extended magazine.
"He told her she never had to worry about anything with him, because he had the gun," the report stated. "He told her he carried it around in case people 'became ignorant.'"
At about noon, the woman said, the two placed an order at Nation's, and the woman agreed to get out of the car to pick up the food. As she was about to close the door, she felt her date grab her keys from her hand.
The woman told police she wanted to press charges. Daly City police conducted a records check that showed McAlister was on parole for robbery, the police report states, and matched a mugshot of McAlister with a photo of "Ray." But McAlister remained at large.
It's unclear if Daly City could or should have done more to apprehend McAlister. Richard Corriea, a former San Francisco police commander, said car theft reports are relatively common and can be deemed lower priority if the suspect and victim are acquaintances.
"What you have here is a stolen auto, with a lot of scary facts involved, and in hindsight we may well wish more was done," said Corriea, who is the director of the International Institute of Criminal Justice Leadership at the University of San Francisco. "But the fact is, to follow up on a stolen auto… that's (something that) can happen later."
Police weigh several factors when deciding whether to immediately chase down a property crime suspect. Short-staffed police departments may want to leave officers free to handle higher-priority calls, and most car thefts aren't considered emergencies.
The fact that a suspect brandishes a weapon and is on parole may boost an incident to higher priority, Corriea said, but officers must also consider whether a manhunt would unnecessarily escalate a situation.
The outcome in this case "is as bad as it gets," Corriea said.
"In hindsight, it's hard to say things were OK and handled OK, and that's the puzzle here," he said. "How do you deal with it?"
McAlister was booked into San Francisco County jail late Thursday following the fatal wreck. He was held on suspicion of charges including two counts of voluntary manslaughter, possession of a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, burglary, driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, driving while addicted to drugs, possessing a gun and a large-capacity ammunition magazine, and violating the terms of parole.
The District Attorney's Office is expected to file charges on Monday.
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