A reputed gang member - who moved out of San Francisco after beating a murder charge when the star witness against him was slain - was ambushed and shot to death Saturday night when he returned to the city for work at a construction site in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, authorities said.
Daniel "Dango" Dennard, 23, of Antioch was attacked as he was stopped on his motorcycle at a red light on Bayshore Boulevard at Industrial Street, a busy roadway near the intersection of Highway 101 and Interstate 280.
San Francisco homicide Inspector John Cleary said Sunday that Dennard had just finished his shift at a job site two blocks away when he was gunned down at 7:20 p.m. A man got out of a car that apparently had been following Dennard, walked up and fired four times, Cleary said. Dennard, who grew up in the neighborhood but recently moved to the East Bay with his girlfriend and child, was involved in one of the most high-profile murder cases in San Francisco in recent memory but escaped prosecution when the key witness was slain.
In late 2005, he was indicted on charges of slaying 20-year-old Arkeylius Collins and, in the same attack, the attempted murder of basketball standout Terrell Rollins. Rollins survived the attack and agreed to help prosecutors. He said at the time he was helping them because of what happened to him, which left him unable to play basketball, and because of what happened to Collins. When he appeared before a San Francisco grand jury that was investigating the case, Rollins identified Dennard as one of the gunmen in that attack.
As the key witness against Dennard Rollins was put under witness protection. Within months of Dennard's indictment, however, Rollins strayed from the witness-protection program, left his hotel in Millbrae and returned to San Francisco. Rollins, who was then 22 years old, was killed on May 4, 2006, while getting his van repaired at an auto shop on Bayshore Boulevard.
Dennard was behind bars when Rollins was killed but was freed after his slaying because of the death of the only witness against him. In an apparent coincidence, Dennard was slain just a few blocks from the auto repair shop where Rollins was killed.
As Dennard and his motorcycle fell to the pavement, the gunman returned to his vehicle and continued north on Bayshore, police said. Dennard was pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m. at San Francisco General Hospital. Investigators did not release a description of the suspect or vehicle.
Two earlier attacks
While it was not immediately clear why Dennard was targeted, he had survived an attack earlier this year and one in November 2004 in which he was shot in the waist, police say.
Police repeatedly arrested him - though charges rarely stuck - and have accused him of being a member of the Oakdale Mob, which has feuded with other San Francisco gangs in Bayview-Hunters Point.
Under City Attorney Dennis Herrera's first civil gang injunction, which was approved by a judge in late 2006, Dennard and 21 others were slapped with a curfew and barred from congregating outside the run-down public housing project known as Oakdale.
After Dennard was arrested in October in Bayview-Hunters Point on suspicion of armed robbery and carjacking, Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak referred to him as the city's "worst of the worst." However, charges were later dropped over problems with the credibility of witnesses.
Dennard's attorney, who defended him in the Collins homicide and other cases, said Dennard was working as a construction apprentice and moved away from the city to start his family.
"It's very sad. Daniel was making something of his life," said Floyd Andrews, a former San Francisco homicide prosecutor. "He was one of my ... success stories. I heard he was going to work, working every day, staying out of San Francisco. He was doing good."
Steve Vender, a private investigator who has helped in Dennard's defense, said the young man had come in for an appointment with his probation officer within the last few weeks. He was wearing his construction clothes and hard hat, Vender said.
Killed on the same street
"The irony was not lost on me," Vender said of the fact that Dennard was killed on the same street as Rollins, coming back to the city he had been told to keep away from. "He (Dennard) was offered an extra shift, working in his trade. He was working. He wasn't hanging out or anything.
"He was told to stay away from the city," Vender said. "We told him that early on."
When he was killed, Dennard was on probation for a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident, the only charge that stuck in what was originally a carjacking case filed last year, Andrews said. That case, too, fell apart, because of credibility problems with the alleged victim.
Vender said Dennard's criminal record was overblown by police.
"You've got all those arrests and you go back and look at them, they were for minor things, trespassing, having a joint. They were looking to stretch those things," Vender said. "The word got around what a bad guy, what a killer Dennard was. I never believed the stuff. The fact of the matter is: If you are going to charge guys with that, they have to stand up."
Officer Len Broberg, a member of the gang task force, said Sunday that earlier this year, Dennard was the target of an ambush in Daly City, but was not injured. Broberg also said Dennard had long been involved in gang activities.
"He had a reputation in the streets, and I think that reputation may have caught up with him."