Bob Lee on a plane

Bob Lee in a 2020 photo from his Twitter account, @CrazyBob.



Mission Local is informed that the San Francisco Police Department early this morning made an arrest in the April 4 killing of tech executive Bob Lee, following an operation undertaken outside the city’s borders. The alleged killer also works in tech and is a man Lee purportedly knew.

We are told that police today were dispatched to Emeryville with a warrant to arrest a man named Nima Momeni. The name and Emeryville address SFPD officers traveled to correspond with this man, the owner of a company called Expand IT.

Multiple police sources have described the predawn knifing last week, which left the 43-year-old Lee dead in a deserted section of downtown San Francisco, as neither a robbery attempt nor a random attack. 

Rather, Lee and Momeni were portrayed by police as being familiar with one another. In the wee hours of April 4, they were purportedly driving together through downtown San Francisco in a car registered to the suspect. 

Some manner of confrontation allegedly commenced while both men were in the vehicle, and potentially continued after Lee exited the car. Police allege that Momeni stabbed Lee multiple times with a knife that was recovered not far from the spot on the 300 block of Main Street to which officers initially responded. 

This scenario would explain, in part, why Lee was walking through a portion of Main Street in which there is little to no foot traffic at 2:30 a.m. That was one of several incongruous circumstances surrounding Lee’s violent death, which law-enforcement sources, from the get-go felt made it far from a straightforward or random crime. 

Nevertheless, some of Lee’s fellow tech luminaries and a chorus of other influential voices portrayed this killing as part and parcel of a city awash in violent crime and on a descent into further chaos. While Lee is one of a dozen homicide victims in San Francisco this year, his is the only killing that has garnered national coverage — or, in most cases, even cursory local coverage. 

San Francisco’s other homicide victims in 2023 are Gavin Boston, 40; Irving Sanchez-Morales, 28; Carlos Romero Flores, 29; Maxwell Maltzman, 18; Demario Lockett, 44; Maxwell Mason, 29; Humberto Avila, 46; Gregory McFarland Jr, 36; Kareem Sims, 43; Debra Lynn Hord, 57; and Jermaine Reeves, 52.

The dozen homicides recorded in San Francisco as of April 13, 2023. Map by Will Jarrett. Basemap from Mapbox.

San Francisco is home to much in the way of visible public misery, unnerving street behavior and overt drug use. Its property crime rate has long been high, and the police clearance rate for property crimes has long been minimal. But the city’s violent crime rate is at a near-historic low, and is lower than most mid-to-large-sized cities.

Today’s arrest would appear to undermine the premise that Lee’s violent death was due to street conditions in San Francisco. If the police do have their man, this was not a robbery gone bad nor a motiveless assault by some random attacker, but an alleged grievance between men who knew one another, which the suspect purportedly escalated into a lethal conflict.

Homicides per 100,000 residents

18

16

Over the past few years,

homicides did rise in San

Francisco – but they remain

low compared to

historic trends

14

12

10

8

6

4

2

1985

1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

2015

2020

Year

Homicides per 100,000 residents

18

16

14

12

10

8

6

Over the past few years,

homicides did rise in San

Francisco – but they remain

low compared to historic trends

4

2

’85

’90

’95

’00

’05

’10

’15

’20

Year

Chart by Will Jarrett. Data from the California Department of Justice and the Census Bureau.

Lee’s death, however, was packaged in the media and on social media into a highlight reel of recent San Francisco misfortunes and crimes: large groups of young people brawling at Stonestown; the abrupt closure of the mid-market Whole Foods, leaving San Franciscans just eight other Whole Foods within city limits; the severe beating of former fire commissioner Don Carmignani in the Marina District, allegedly by belligerent homeless people — it all adds up to a feeling of a city coming undone.

This manner of coverage, however, does not capture the actual lived experience of the vast majority of San Franciscans. It also omits potentially mitigating details of the individual events. Carmignani, for instance, was brutally struck in the head with a metal rod and hospitalized. But the lawyer for his alleged attacker claims that the former fire commissioner first pepper-sprayed the homeless man accused of beating him — which certainly would color this incident.

Of note, police sources say that a series of homeless people had previously been pepper-sprayed in the Marina District prior to this instance.

The arrest in the Lee case is a breaking story. We will update this article as soon as possible.

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.


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