Chesa Boudin: Ho-hum, another homicide in the projects

DA’s indifference is perpetuating systemic racism
Separated from Eddie, M.R. checks his watch and waits.

It was Eddie who found his mother. She had passed from an apparent heart attack. He was closer to his mom than his sister, and her death devastated him. Tragically, within a week, he would join his mom. 

Life has never been uneventful for the families squeezed into the army barrack housing that compose Visitation Valley’s Sunnydale neighborhood. Year’s back, I played on a baseball team composed predominantly of players residing in Sunnydale⎯including three who would later be inducted into the Balboa High School Hall of Fame. And, though my teammates eventually departed Sunnydale, they maintained a lifetime bond to the valley where their youthful potential was boundless, and age had yet to call in its IOUs.

Eddie left Sunnydale through a job with the city’s Department of Public Works. Three of his children attend private schools.

Gifted with a 6’9” frame, fellow Sunnydale resident Quette glided through life as a basketball star, achieving all-citystatus at Balboa High School. Then putting Sunnydale in the rearview mirror, he ventured off to play basketball for the University of Hawaii. Sources say it was a relationship with methamphetamine that reversed the trajectory of his career

Eddie and Quette had a running beef. That they did not like each other was an understatement. 

In the early morning hours of January 21, fellow-Sunnydale resident M.R. drove a still-grieving Eddie back to the valley of his childhood memories; Eddie was reluctant to leave the passenger seat. Considering the late hour, the surveillance video of Eddie’s unsteady gait, and the mournful texts to his girlfriend, Eddie’s friends and family believe he was probably consoling with alcohol.

M.R., who was also a distant relative of Quette, nervously paced and checked his watch before he saw Quette walk into his view. Ninety minutes had elapsed since M.R. had driven Eddie to Sunnydale Avenue. After a brief conversation with Quette, M.R. escorted him to the final meeting with Eddie. 

Separated from Eddie, M.R. checks his watch and waits.
Separated from Eddie, M.R. checks his watch and waits.

It happened quickly, Eddie became animated when he saw M.R. approaching with Quette. The two argued briefly and then, almost simultaneously, Quette and Eddie drew guns and fired. A few hours later, Eddie perished at General Hospital. 


In any other city, in any other country in the world, if a person dies from a gunshot wound, a specialized homicide unit manages the investigation⎯except in San Francisco. Because Eddie had passed away after SFPD arrived, the district captain decided that the principal focus of this murder would be a “police in-custody death.” 

This critical decision had a dual effect. First, it exposed SFPD’s hierarchy of importance. The presumed guilt of officers running into a gun battle took precedence over resolving a murder case. Second, it replaced the cumulative expertise of SFPD’s homicide unit with an Internal Affairs’ investigator who had no homicide experience. That is not to say the Internal Affairs sergeant lacked competency. It just raises the question why SFPD maintains specialized units if, when the circumstances arise that require that expert skill set, generically trained officers are used as substitutes. What’s next? Having Internal Affairs conduct sweeps for the bomb squad? 

Consistent with this SFPD administration’s priority of investigating its own officers over solving crimes, Gang Task Force officers were also eliminated from the murder investigation. Meanwhile, members from the oversight Department of Police Accountability, with no homicide expertise, were allowed to trample through the evidence within the crime scene. 


Two months after, and one block away from Eddie’s murder, SFPD took Quette into custody. Methamphetamine was found in Quette’s shirt pocket. 

Per the SFPD incident report, Quette confessed to knowing his shots killed Eddie. Quette at 6’9” said that he brought the gun to the shoot-out “because he was ‘terrified’ that Eddie (at 5’8”) was going to harm him.” Quette told the interviewers “he was sorry.”

Quette was booked into County Jail for the homicide, discharging the firearm in a grossly negligent manner, and for being in possession of a loaded firearm. District Attorney Chesa Boudin (or his famous algorithm) dropped the homicide charges on the basis that Quette fired in self-defense. 


Not happy that Quette was summarily released, Eddie’s family raised serious questions to Boudin on whether Quette was merely acting in self-defense:

  • Were the multiple 50-yard shots Quette fired at Eddie’s back as he was running for his life really defensive shots?
Quette’s 50-yard shots at the back of a fleeing Eddie.
Quette’s 50-yard shots at the back of a fleeing Eddie.
  • Five months earlier (September 28, 2019), texts from Eddie’s phone indicate that he had been set up the previous evening in another Quette shooting that grazed his shoulders. M.R. was present then also. Thus, on January 21, 2020, was M.R. setting up Eddie for a second shooting or was he acting as a peacemaker? Did investigators subpoena M.R.’s texts?
  • Why did M.R.’s girlfriend show up to the scene immediately after the shooting? Who was she Facetiming on her phone? What was she doing up at 5:30 in the morning while her kids were sleeping? Why did she collect spent rounds before SFPD arrived? With M.R.’s car still parked between two SFPD vehicles that responded, why was it M.R.’s girlfriend, instead of M.R., that drove his car away from the incident scene? 
  • Why did Quette subsequently text an Eddie family member: “Dude thought I was a sucka, now where he at?”

The aforementioned unresolved questions led Eddie’s family to believe his death was more orchestrated than spontaneous, and they questioned the depth of Boudin’s review.


Frustrated with unanswered questions and that Quette was cavalierly released by Chesa Boudin’s office; Eddie’s family demanded answers. On August 10, Boudin acquiesced to a Zoom conference call. During that call, Boudin shared a short, two-minute surveillance video of Eddie’s final moments. Eddie’s sister felt the two-minute video, from within a two-hour episode, was indicative that Boudin was hiding facts. 

She vehemently lectured Boudin:

You are soft on criminals because your parents were in jail. That’s why you have a problem with the police. Stop the Black lives matter stuff, because you really don’t care what happens in these neighborhoods. You only care when the police are involved. If you really cared, you would be in these neighborhoods every time there’s a shooting

You have a confession and video, what else do you need? Why is that not enough to go to trial? 

It is not whether you win at a trial, it’s that you at least try!

Family members agreed that Eddie’s sister’s response appeared to fluster Boudin. His breathing accelerated. Boudin said that because of the arguing, he was just going to drop Quette’s remaining gun possession charge, which essentially absolved him of all the January 21 charges. The family members concurred that they thought Boudin’s decision was retaliation for their disagreement with his manifesto. 

(Boudin eventually provided a spliced 12-minute tape with a mysterious one-hour gap between 4:20 a.m. and 5:20 a.m.)


This story is full of tragic figures as the cycle of generational violence in the Sunnydale continues.

My first week at Ingleside Station, Mike Hutchings beelined to share with me that he had played Pop Warner football for a predominately Sunnydale team, coached by my uncle. “We had better uniforms than I had in high school. When we traveled, we wore ties and stayed at white people’s homes. Man, we wore capes when we ran onto the field! We had dignity.”

It was clear that having a coach that cared conveyed to Mike that he mattered as a person, and it had a lifetime effect on him and, as a result, the Sunnydale. As a police officer, Mike returned to spend the majority of his career in the district that encompasses the Sunnydale. In his spare time, as a coach, Mike transferred those early lessons on self-esteem to subsequent generations of Pop Warner and high school football kids. Sadly, Mike left us from cancer at too young of an age.

Dissimilar to Mike’s contribution to a positive Sunnydale cycle, SFPD Chief William Scott mandated that Black Lives Matter banners must be displayed at each district station because of the prevalence of systemic racism. Yet in practice, when Public Defender Jeff Adachi died, the chief assigned the homicide unit to investigate Adachi’s death from natural causes. Meanwhile, when some nobody was killed by bullets in the projects, SFPD’s priority shifted to an Internal Affairs’ investigation of the SFPD officers. That different treatment by social class and race is by definition systemic racism! 

There is no justification for Eddie bringing a gun to Sunnydale. But this is the lawless environment that DA Boudin established in his first days in office when he (I mean the algorithm) freed murderers on self-defense claims. Per Boudin’s philosophy, carrying a gun in public is justified; just make sure you kill your opponent so they can’t refute your story. 

Muzzle flash from Quette’s gun as he shoots behind the cover of a car.
Muzzle flash from Quette’s gun as he shoots behind the cover of a car.

Should a police officer take the same multiple, 50-yard shots at a person running away, Boudin would surely prosecute the officer for murder. But some fungible Black guy from the projects? This Boudin double standard also perpetuates systemic racism.

For this story, it was extremely painful for me to observe a fatherless child studying next to his mother. Another victim of the San Francisco lawlessness caused by a district attorney that has only paid lip service to Black lives matter while turning his back to the dignity the Sunnydale community craves. There is an obvious contrast between Officer Mike’s and my uncle’s generational effect on the Sunnydale versus the apathy demonstrated by Boudin’s criminal-justice-engineering response. 

Say his name, Chesa Boudin: Eddie Ellenberg IV⎯ and a family of five, fatherless and partner-less.
Say his name, Chesa Boudin: Eddie Ellenberg IV⎯ and a family of five, fatherless and partner-less.

Eddie mattered!

Lou Barberini is a CPA. Send feedback to [email protected] 

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