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An ex-fire commissioner is accused of spraying bear mace on homeless people minding their own business on San Francisco’s streets

Footage shows an unidentified man — who defense lawyers say is Don Carmignani — bear spraying a sleeping homeless person.Footage shows an unidentified man — who defense lawyers say is Don Carmignani — spraying bear mace in a sleeping homeless person’s face.

San Francisco Public Defender’s Office

  • A former fire commissioner is accused of approaching homeless people and spraying them with bear mace.
  • Don Carmignani initially said he was attacked by a homeless man, Garrett Doty, with a lead pipe.
  • Doty’s lawyers now point to evidence they say links Carmignani to the spate of unprovoked attacks.

A former San Francisco fire commissioner who says a homeless man attacked him is now accused of spraying bear mace on at least eight homeless people who were minding their own business.

Don Carmignani, 53, initially said he was assaulted by Garret Doty, 24, on April 5 outside his mother’s home. 

Footage of the attack appears to show Carmignani on the street being repeatedly struck by a man wielding a lead pipe. Doty was arrested in connection with the attack, and faces assault and battery charges brought by the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

But Doty’s defense lawyers are now highlighting police reports and videos that they say link Carmignani to at least eight unprovoked attacks on homeless people in recent years.

The lawyers said in a Wednesday press statement that it was Carmignani who instigated the confrontation with Doty and that the latter had acted in self-defense.

Videos show shocking bear spray attacks

One video dated April 5 shows a man dressed in a black coat attacking Doty with bear spray on the street.

Doty’s lawyers argued that the man in black was Carmignani, adding that a third-party witness told police she heard him threaten to stab and kill Doty.

—Matthew Loh (@ma2loh) April 27, 2023

Another video from November 2021 shows an unidentified person spraying bear mace at a homeless person sleeping on the street. When the victim turns away, the assailant leans forward to continue spraying their face.

—Matthew Loh (@ma2loh) April 27, 2023

Police reports describe eight other attacks

Eight police reports also documented an unnamed person using bear spray to attack homeless people in the area, Doty’s lawyers said. The reports were made between November 2022 and January 2023.

While Carmignani was not named in any of these reports, Doty’s lawyers said they contained physical descriptions that matched the former fire commissioner’s appearance.

Kleigh Hathaway, a public defender for Doty, said the most recent attack involved the assailant stealing a phone, earrings, and a wallet from a homeless woman and throwing her dog on the ground, according to The San Francisco Standard.

The unnamed attacker told the woman and another homeless man to “get the fuck out of my town” and that they didn’t “belong” there, Hathaway told the outlet.

Carmignani says he wasn’t the attacker

According to Doty’s defense team, the police reports and videos were turned over by the San Francisco district attorney’s office. Hathaway’s team says prosecutors “indicated” that the unnamed assailant might be Carmignani.

“These eight separate acts of violence were perpetrated against people who are homeless. The district attorney and the police gave us, the defense, yesterday, these police reports because they believe these acts are related to Mr. Carmignani,” Hathaway told reporters on Wednesday.

Carmignani’s lawyer, Nick Colla, told The Standard that his client wasn’t the unnamed assailant.

“Our client vehemently denies that he is the alleged individual who is committing these acts against homeless people,” Colla said, per The Standard.

The former fire commissioner told CBS himself that he wasn’t looking for a fight when Doty attacked him.

“I didn’t go out there to fight anyone. I’m trying to get them down the road, go to the park,” Carmignani told the outlet, saying doctors told him he would have died had been struck one more time on April 5.

Confusion ensued on Wednesday when Hathaway’s team said they were told by prosecutors that charges against Doty would be dropped.

But District Attorney Brooke Jenkins later told reporters that her office still intends to proceed with the case, though a preliminary hearing has been delayed until Thursday, The Standard reported. 

Doty must be released from jail if the Thursday hearing doesn’t happen, Jenkins told the outlet.

Colla, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and the San Francisco district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours.

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