Skip to main content

Bob Lee’s downtown SF killing sparks rage at ‘lawless’ city

Workers clean what they believe to human blood off the exterior of The Portside at 403 Main St. in San Francisco. Bob Lee, the former chief technology officer of Square, was stabbed to death on Main Street in San Francisco early on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. | Jonah Lamb/The Standard

The stabbing death of prominent tech executive Bob Lee has sparked a wave of criticism about crime in San Francisco, with some people even going so far as to blame city leaders for his death, though details of what transpired and whether the attack was random currently remain unknown.

Outspoken Twitter and Tesla boss Elon Musk was among the prominent figures weighing into the debate, tweeting he knows many people who have been severely assaulted and describing violent crime in the city as horrific. 

READ MORE: Video Appears To Show Mortally Wounded Cash App Creator Bob Lee Looking for Help in Downtown San Francisco After Stabbing

The latest SFPD data shows a 6% jump in violent crime in the city for the year to date, the equivalent of 75 more violent crimes compared with the same period last year. There were 12 homicides in San Francisco this year as of April 2, compared with 10 in the same year-to-date period in 2022. 

READ MORE: Former Square CTO Bob Lee Stabbed to Death in Downtown San Francisco

Alan Alden, who works in finance out of Palo Alto, blamed policies from Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors as contributors to issues that led to Lee’s death.

Much of the criticism came from tech industry executives, who slammed city leaders on social media for creating unsafe streets that led to Lee’s death. 

The founder of MobileCoin, where Lee served as chief product officer, said in a tweet early Wednesday that “something isn’t working” in San Francisco, but was not more specific.

Others were more targeted in their criticism, with Palo Alto tech venture capitalist Matt Ocko blaming former District Attorney Chesa Boudin and an allegedly “criminal-loving” Board of Supervisors who he said “enabled” a “lawless SF.” Boudin was recalled in June 2022.

Douglas Karr, who runs a Ohio-based tech consulting firm called Highbridge, said that San Francisco “has abandoned enforcement and forces its citizens to be defenseless.” 

Peter Kazanjy, co-founder of San Francisco-based software company Atrium, suggested there would be a reckoning with public safety political discourse as a result of Lee’s death. The city is already struggling to attract business amid an exodus of tech companies and other firms in wake of the Covid pandemic and large transition to remote work.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, a former police communications executive who represents the area Lee was killed in, took to Twitter to voice concern about the events.

"I’ve also heard from many constituents in the area—some of whom have already voiced concerns to me about public safety challenges—and I’m asking everyone to cooperate with police in their investigation, especially those with access to surveillance video that may help," said Dorsey on Twitter.

Lee, the former chief technology officer of Square, was identified as the 43-year-old man stabbed to death in Downtown San Francisco early Tuesday morning.

The San Francisco Police Department said officers responded to reports of a stabbing on Main Street near Harrison Street at approximately 2:35 a.m. Officers found a man suffering from apparent stab wounds. The man was transported to a local hospital where he died.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at