one killed, the other his alleged killer

Alonzo Osche

A year ago, two men met by chance in San Francisco’s quiet Glen Park neighborhood — an encounter that within minutes destroyed both of their lives.

It’s been a year of anguish for countless relatives and community members. And for San Francisco, a year of failing to learn the lessons of that Memorial Day morning.

At about 8:20 a.m., 94-year-old Leo Hainzl, took what would be his last walk with his dog, Rip, to Glen Canyon. He crossed paths with a man who’d slept on the streets of the neighborhood for years and had often menaced passersby through a fog of mental illness. Police said Peter Rocha, now 54, attacked Hainzl with a stick, causing him to fall, hit his head and die within hours at a hospital.

A year later, Rocha apparently remains in that fog.

He languishes today in a County Jail cell, trapped in an all-too-common purgatory. A judge said he’s too mentally ill to stand trial, ordering him in December to a locked state psychiatric hospital for compelled treatment that could make him well enough to face a judge and jury.

But California’s psychiatric hospitals have no available beds. And so Rocha waits behind bars, where medication is optional. Incredibly, he’s on a waiting list of 1,523 people — all of them incarcerated and in the same situation.

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