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Teen caught atop San Francisco 43-story skyscraper did it for social media, he says

A cityscape with skyscrapers under a clear blue sky, featuring the distinct Transamerica Pyramid in the distance.
A group of teens attempted to climb atop the building at 44 Montgomery St. on Tuesday. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

A group of teenagers was caught atop a 43-story downtown San Francisco skyscraper Tuesday afternoon, building security said.

The four teens were on top of 44 Montgomery St. in the city’s Financial District, according to building security, who refused to give a name as they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Officers detained two teenagers near the building after responding to a report of trespassers around 1:34 p.m., according to the San Francisco Police Department. Security told The Standard the two other teens got away.

One of the teens had a crowbar that was seized by police at around 3 p.m. Of the two teens who were detained by police, one was released from police custody to his mother, while the other was taken to the police station.

One of the teens, who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, said he has been climbing buildings as a fun challenge for about a year and documenting his feats on social media. He noted that it was just him and one friend who went up to the top of the building on Montgomery Tuesday.

“I hid in this locked room for about an hour until I heard no sirens,” he said. “I exited the room and took the elevator down to the floor, but 10 building security [guards] got me to the floor as police came.”

Two police officers are standing by a bike on a sunny city sidewalk as people walk by.
San Francisco police detain a teen at the corner of Montgomery and Sutter streets on Tuesday. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

One of the officers, he added, put his handcuffs on too tight, which hurt his hands. He said he plans to get an X-ray on Wednesday to see if there’s any damage.

“The woman cop who was there was a lifesaver,” he said. “She loosened up the cuffs after I complained about it when the officer who put it on me said he didn’t care and wasn’t going to adjust it.”

The teen wouldn’t say how they gained access to the building. He said he was released from custody at a police station after his dad picked him up.

Social media has recently popularized the performance of daring—and dangerous—stunts, like “surfing” trains. Earlier this year, two teens died within a matter of weeks after falling off BART trains in San Francisco.

“Please think about your parents. It’s so hard to lose a child; you’ll be gone, but your parents will be left in this world wondering why you did this,” said Marina Baran, whose son died on Jan. 29 after riding on top of a BART train on the edge of the city. “Taking such an unnecessary risk leaves me speechless.”

Her son, Daniel Baran, a 19-year-old Skyline College history student and Lowell High School graduate, had ambitions to attend law school. His Instagram account showed he had previously climbed onto the roof of San Francisco State University’s dorm buildings. His mother thinks he may have been inspired by others doing similar daring stunts, which they shared on social media.

Aerial view of city street between tall buildings, casting shadows, with visible cars and a rooftop patio.
One of the teens who was detained after going on top of the skyscraper said he's been scaling buildings and documenting his feats on social media for about a year. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

The teen added that exploring San Francisco’s urban landscape has gotten more difficult in recent months as buildings have increased their security measures.

“It used to be really chill in the Bay Area,” he said. “No alarms, no cameras, but now it’s everywhere. It’s terrible.”

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to The Standard’s questions about whether the teens would be charged with a crime.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at