The streetlights cast a dim glow over Jerome Mallory as he strolled down the street in Bayview to meet a girl. It was around 11 p.m. on July 5, 2020. A white Honda Accord with four men inside slowed beside him. A muzzle flash lit up the night as nearly 20 bullets flew through the air, striking Mallory and a nearby car, before the Honda sped away.
Mallory was left riddled with bullets on the bloodied street, police say. He was 18.
Two years later, two men—Sincere Pomar and Stevie Mitchell—stand charged with his murder in a case that’s ignited conflict-of-interest concerns around San Francisco’s newly appointed District Attorney Brooke Jenkins because of her family ties to the case: the victim is her husband’s cousin.
Defense attorneys pushed for the entire DA’s office to recuse itself from the prosecution, arguing that what Jenkins said about the case while campaigning for DA Chesa Boudin’s recall—that gang conspiracy charges should have been filed because she thought it was the only way they could build a case—was enough to taint the entire office’s involvement. Ultimately, the California Attorney General’s Office said that the existing firewalls erected in the DA’s office were enough to make sure the case was handled fairly.
Jenkins declined to comment, but she previously told The Standard that “my stance has not changed and I will continue to have no involvement in either case to avoid any appearance whatsoever of a conflict.”
While the debate over the potential conflict of interest has taken center stage, the question of whether the young man’s death was gang-related has been overshadowed as the case inches towards trial. Police and prosecutors, for their part, believe that the young man’s death was just one killing in a violent battle between two San Francisco gangs, Tre-4 and Double Rock.
Defense attorneys refute the theory about a gang feud inspiring the killing. They claim police have a long history of unfairly painting entire neighborhoods and the people who live there—especially people of color—as gang-affiliated. What police call gang feuds, defense attorneys call conflicts among neighborhood kids that have gotten out of hand.
On the night of April 28, 2020 “Baby” Reno Fiapoto and Ramone Fiapoto were driving on the Bay Bridge to SF from the East Bay in a silver Infiniti around 11 p.m. when gunshots rang out. The bullets came from another car and sliced into their vehicle.
“Baby” Reno Fiapoto was killed. His brother Ramone Fiapoto was injured, as was a bystander in another car.
Traffic soon piled up in the surrounding lanes and brought approaching vehicles to a standstill as the California Highway Patrol rushed to the scene. The investigation lasted all night. The bridge didn’t open until 6 a.m.
Whoever fired those shots managed to get away.
An arrest has yet to be made, but authorities say they almost immediately linked the shooting to the ongoing feud between two groups from Bayview and Visitacion Valley: Double Rock and Tre-4, respectively. And this incident, police allege, led to the eventual murder of Mallory almost three months later.
A History of Violence
Both the Double Rock and Tre-4 gangs trace their origins to San Francisco public housing projects, SFPD Gang Task Force Sgt. Matthew Dudley said in a state court deposition from July 2020.
Double Rock takes its name from a now-torn down housing project with the same name near Candlestick Point in the Bayview. The complex has since been rebuilt and renamed Alice Griffith Apartments, where many of the same people from the original development now live. Both groups have members who live as far east as Antioch, police say.
Since 2020, prosecutors say, Double Rock has been feuding with Tre-4, a mostly Samoan and Black group also known as Tear It Down. Though Tre-4 emerged from the Sunnydale housing project in Visitacion Valley, many of its members live in other parts of San Francisco and the East Bay, according to media reports and court documents.
The feud, which another federal case filing said also includes Visitacion Valley’s Down Below Gang, dubbed DBG for short, has led to at least one other incident across the Bay Area.
After the killing of “Baby” Reno Fiapoto, an alleged member of Tre-4, according to the Mercury News, a series of shootings were reported at the graveyard in Colma where he is buried. Authorities believe those shootings, which injured no one, may have been perpetrated by Double Rock.
Lead-Up to a Murder
Just after 10 a.m. on July 5, 2020, two of the alleged conspirators in Mallory’s killing drove west over the Bay Bridge from the East Bay. One of the men in the car, Mitchell, held a gun in his hand. The pair was headed to the city to exact revenge for Reno Fiapoto, their dead compariot, police say.
Their drive was memorialized by a video on Instagram in which Mitchell is seen with a gun with an extended magazine, according to documents.
After crossing the bridge, the pair headed to the Alemany Apartments in the southern part of the city, where they both lived. They then ditched the Camaro in Visitacion Valley’s McLaren Park and met up with both Pomar and another suspect referred to in court documents only as Montana J. because he was a minor at the time.
The group of four then drove in a stolen Honda down towards Alice Griffith Apartments, which lie just across Highway 101 in the Bayview.
Once they crossed the freeway and Third Street, the Alice Griffith Apartment complex’s four-story buildings rose above their car. Police say it’s unclear why they targeted Mallory aside from the fact that he lived in the same neighborhood associated with Double Rock, but the conspirators inside the Honda saw him and opened fire as he walked along the street, according to court records.
After they had fired nearly 20 rounds, Mallory’s aunt, Ericka Patton ran outside and found her nephew on the ground, records said.
The Honda sped away, but crashed about two blocks from the shooting. Video from the scene shows four men in black bolting from the crashed car, while its engine remained running.
Pomar and Mitchell ran toward the Candlestick RV Park near the bay and dumped two weapons, court records and testimony show. It’s unknown where the other two shooters went.
In what may have been a fateful mistake, Pomar and Mitchell are alleged to have returned in the daytime to retrieve the gun they stashed in the bushes at the RV park, according to at least one witness. Police recovered another gun from the bay.
The Tre-4 Connection
When police rolled up to the scene of Mallory’s killing, they found spent shell casings, blood and the stolen Honda.
By combining what they found in both the crashed Honda in Bayview and the abandoned Camaro in Mclaren Park with surveillance footage, a witness, social media posts and phone logs, police pieced together what they believed to be the motivation behind the killing and its links to Tre-4.
In an interview following his arrest for being part of an unrelated gun battle in a 2020 case, Pomar identified himself in a number of Instagram photos. One of those photos was beside the grave of slain Tre-4 member “Baby” Reno Fiapoto, who was killed on the Bay Bridge by someone from Double Rock, according to police.
Meanwhile, Mitchell—the other suspect arrested in connection to Mallory’s killing—was linked to Tre-4 via a family member. His mother, court documents say, is in a relationship with a convicted Tre-4 member.
Authorities say they found more links to other alleged Tre-4 members in both the Honda and the Camaro, including the drivers’ license of a Tre-4 member and the ID of another Tre-4 member. Sgt. Dudley also said that he’d seen a Tre-4 gang member, who survived the Bay Bridge shooting, posted Instagram photos with the same Camaro.
In the fall of 2020, police finally arrested Pomar and Mitchell; both were subsequently charged, as were the two juveniles involved.
The Meaning of ‘Gang’
The police and prosecutors’ theory of the case is a far cry from what defense lawyers say—specifically the characterization of the group as criminal street gangs.
Rebecca Young, a former prosecutor and longtime deputy public defender, said many of the groups in the Bayview or Visitacion Valley are really just kids whom police categorize as gang members because they live in the same neighborhood and hang out together.
“My position is that these are not actually gangs,” she explained, saying that they lack both the hierarchy and control of commerce held by gangs, which operate more as black-market enterprises.
“They are not organized around criminal activity and don’t have all the traditional markers such as colors, numbers,” Young, who is running for Public Defender, said.
Pam Herzig, the lawyer who represents Mitchell and has defended at least one other alleged Tre-4 member—Mitchell’s mother’s boyfriend—echoed Young’s contention, saying the government’s theory about feuding gangs lacks evidence.
She pointed to testimony from a gang expert in her client’s trial who said he was unaware of any social media or other indicators that either defendant sought to avenge Fiapoto’s death or blamed Double Rock for his demise.
Social Media Fuels the Spread
No matter what happens in the trial over his murder, Mallory is far from forgotten—and neither is the man whom he was allegedly killed to avenge: “Baby” Reno Fiapoto.
Since the 2020 homicide, Mallory—known as “Little Rome”—has been memorialized in at least one rap video and countless lanyards emblazoned with his likeness.
A YouTube video honoring Mallory was released by rapper Dale Inacuts in 2021, and shows him and others gesturing as if holding guns. “I’m in the Point,” Inactus says in the video, referring to Hunters Point, which is near where Mallory was killed.
Inactus goes on to say, “we do this shit for Little Rome,” as he rattles off verse after verse about shootings and violence. The video then zooms in on a man wearing a lanyard with an image of Mallory holding up four fingers with one hand and flipping the bird with the other.
Meanwhile, rapper Reno Goldie Fiapoto, who goes by Tear It Off Greezy, has posted more than one rap video on YouTube in which he wears a gold chain with the initials B.R. and refers to “Baby” Reno Fiapoto. In another video memorializing Fiapoto, a group of drivers stopped on the Bay Bridge, stalling traffic and hollering his name.
Such videos are common, according to police, who note that social media only exacerbates gang violence by making it easier to disseminate taunts and threats.
Steve Ford, Antioch’s police chief and a former SFPD officer has dealt with Double Rock and Tre-4, both of which have a presence in the Contra Costa County town of more than 100,000 people. He said these feuds increasingly play out online as much as on the streets.
“Social media is the main vehicle for conflict and expressing disagreements,” he said. “Social media feeds it.”
But Ford cautioned against simply blaming the violence on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. The issues driving the violence run much deeper—and he said absent parents, drugs and poverty all contribute.
“There’s a whole lot more than social media that prompts it,” he said. “It’s been years in the making.”
Meanwhile, Sincere Pomar and Stevie Mitchell are awaiting trial, which is set to open in late September.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]