Skip to main content

San Francisco bomb suspect thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto, official says

A man allegedly set off bombs while being chased by San Francisco police.
San Francisco police block Eighth Street at Mission Street on Sunday. A man allegedly set off multiple bombs while being chased by police, a city official told The Standard. | Source: Matthew Kupfer/The Standard

A man who allegedly set off multiple bombs Sunday evening while being chased by San Francisco police might have thought his actions were part of a video game, according to a city official who was briefed by police.

“In 23 years of doing this stuff, this is probably the most bizarre,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes the North Beach neighborhood where an assault was first reported around 5:52 p.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. 

Peskin told The Standard that police informed him the suspect set off a pipe bomb in Nob Hill, and officers continued to pursue the man south where he allegedly ignited a Molotov cocktail near Eighth and Mission streets.

Peskin said a police officer told him after the man’s arrest that "he wanted to know how many points he got in his Grand Theft Auto game."

UPDATE: San Francisco Bombing Suspect Blew Up Car in 2011, Won Early Release

The suspect allegedly assaulted a young man at Sts. Peter and Paul Church before the police chase began. | Source: Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Grand Theft Auto—or GTA—is a long-running action-adventure video game series in which players can engage in crime, police chases, gunfights and complete missions. The games are often ranked among the greatest and bestselling titles.

The California Highway Patrol apprehended the suspect, who has not yet been identified. No injuries have been reported in relation to the incident as of Monday morning.

Police confirmed that they received a report of an assault at the church. Peskin said he was told the suspect apparently tried to receive communion. However, a resident who tried to offer the man communion told the supervisor that the suspect declined the offering before walking away and assaulting a young male parishioner near the church’s entrance. The victim refused medical treatment, Peskin said.

The suspect then allegedly got into a vehicle and fled the scene, sparking a pursuit, according to police.

"Officers initiated pursuit, and the suspect threw an unknown object out of the car window at pursuing officers," officials said.

People reported hearing loud explosions on social media Sunday evening, and officers had taped off a block by Jones and Pacific streets as well as the area around Mission and Eighth streets.

Bobby Diaz, a guest at the Bei Hotel on Eighth Street in SoMa, heard a blast as he was on the phone.

"I was looking out the window,” he said. “I heard what sounded like a boom. It kind of sounded like someone crashed into the hotel.”

The suspect fled out of the city and onto the freeway, forcing the California Highway Patrol to take over the chase, police said. The pursuit ended in Martinez, where the man was taken into custody.

Matthew Kupfer contributed to this report.