Ex-SF fire commissioner attacked homeless people with bear spray: attorneys

3 mins read

A former San Francisco fire commissioner attacked homeless people with bear spray in the Marina neighborhood, according to the attorneys of Garret Allen Doty, a 24-year-old unsheltered man. 

Doty is charged with assaulting former fire commissioner Don Carmignani and accused of hitting him with a metal pipe. 

However, a new surveillance video footage shows that Carmignani, 53, provoked the incident when he allegedly attacked Doty with bear spray. 

After the incident, Carmignani was hospitalized with major head injuries.

Doty’s public defender said a man matching Carmignani’s description is suspected of targeting the homeless in at least eight separate incidents since November 2021. 

According to the defense, bear spray was used as a weapon in some incidents and some were attacked while sleeping or inside tents. 

Before the April attack, another homeless person was targeted in January, just a block away from Carmignani’s house. 

Doty was initially arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with serious bodily injury, and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury for the incident.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office says they are seeking to have charges against Doty dropped in light of the new evidence. 

The evidence shows that “Carmignani instigated the altercation with Doty, and may be involved in a series of unsolved bear spray assaults and a robbery against unhoused people in the Cow Hollow and Marina neighborhoods,” the Public Defender’s Office wrote.

According to the public defender, a witness told police she heard Carmignani threaten to stab and kill Doty if he did not leave the area, and Doty reacted in self-defense. 

The incident started when Carmignani called 911 after seeing Doty and two other unsheltered individuals camping outside his mother’s house, using drugs, and being “extremely aggressive” towards people. 

Carmignani wrote, “Both my mother and I called 911 to report that three homeless individuals had set up an encampment at the entryway to her residence. My family has had prior interactions with these individuals, who have made repeated threats of violence to my family members. As a result, my mother did not feel safe leaving her home. Neither SFPD nor any of the city’s various homeless service providers responded to our 911 calls that morning. Throughout that day, my mother and girlfriend informed me that these individuals were still in front of her house, had been openly consuming drugs, and had exhibited extremely aggressive behavior towards passersby.”

According to Carmignani, he asked the people to leave and Doty attacked him with a pipe “countless” times. 

Carmignani was hospitalized with a skull fracture.

Carmignani fears the DA’s Office will drop all charges against Doty and paint him as the aggressor. 


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.