Portrait of the Soul-Jacker

Police call Bernard Temple the meanest hit man ever to roam the gang-infested streets of Bayview-Hunters Point. Temple calls himself a soul-jacker -- someone who kills to steal the spiritual power of his victims.

"I thought he was going to be a minister!" she screamed.
Calhoun knew Temple when he had just gotten out of the hospital after being shot. She was close enough to Temple to have been part of a group of people who prayed over Temple's supine body in the hospital. "We lifted him up," she said.

Back then, Calhoun said, Temple was reading the Bible, quoting Scripture in daily conversation, and telling people he was going to use his powers of persuasion to do the Lord's work. At the time, Calhoun was trying to negotiate a peace between warring gangs in Sunnydale and Hunters Point. She organized a "peace caravan" and loaded up several cars with fatigued gangbangers from Sunnydale -- gangbangers who were Temple's sworn enemies.

The caravan was driving down Third Street toward HP, Calhoun said, when she spotted Temple coming out of a store. "I still remember it like it was yesterday," she said. "I told Bernard what we were doing, and as soon as the words 'peace caravan' came out of my mouth, he started getting all excited and jumping up and down."

Temple jumped into a convertible with his Sunnydale rivals, sitting right up front for all to see as the caravan drove slowly toward his Hunters Point turf. On the way, Calhoun said, Temple stood up in the convertible, not unlike a campaigning politician, exhorting people on the sidewalk, yelling, "Peace. Peace."

People began calling back to Temple, Calhoun recalled. "Peace, peace," they chanted; some jumped in their cars.

By the time the caravan reached HP, it included a long line of HP cars and kids. The drivers were honking their horns, Calhoun said. They continued yelling the word, "Peace."

It appears that Temple was conducting business as usual during the few weeks of quiet that followed the peace caravan. He was looking for Ernest Hill, the man who shot him on April Fools' Day, and trying to build his "rep" as the Soul-Jacker, gangbanger extraordinaire.

"While monitoring gang activity and narcotics dealing in the Potrero District [the S.F. police district covered by Potrero Station, which includes Hunters Point and the Bayview] for the past two and a half years, Temple has come to the attention of this unit on an almost daily basis. Temple was the acknowledged leader of the Oakdale and Baldwin set [subgang] of the Hunters Point gang," John Fowlie, a veteran narcotics inspector who is now serving on the federal gang task force, wrote in a June 1990 report. "Temple's police contacts have mostly been involving crimes of violence."

At the time, Fowlie was watching Temple closely, waiting for him to violate the terms of the probation he received as part of his 1987 sentence for statutory rape. Under the probation agreement, Temple could not carry a firearm.

After the April shooting, street sources told Fowlie that Temple was packing a gun. But Fowlie was playing against time; the probation would expire at the end of 1990.

On the afternoon of May 22, 1990, shots were fired in the Army Street projects on the back side of Potrero Hill. Police informants attributed the shots to Temple, who, the informants said, was gunning for Hill. The shots missed their target -- at least that afternoon.

That evening, however, was stained by one of the bloodiest drive-by shootings in the history of a Sunnydale-Hunters Point gang war that has included dozens of rolling gun battles. The carnage at Third Street and Palou Avenue is still legendary in police circles. Homicide detectives -- Hendrix in particular -- are still looking for some of the shooters.

The massacre began this way, according to Hendrix: Hill was cruising in a car filled with fellow Sunnydale gangbangers, one named Harold Kyer (who happened to be another of Mayor Agnos' gang experts). Hill spotted Temple's car in traffic. But Temple was not in it or anywhere near the intersection of Third and Palou. Temple's car was being used by a friend who was giving a ride home to two Omega Boys.

Hill wanted desperately to get at Temple's car, but there was a car in between, driven by Kim Sturdivant, an innocent bystander. Hill started ramming Sturdivant's car with his own, trying to get her out of the way. But her car spun out, ending up side by side with Hill's car, still blocking the way to Temple's vehicle. "Shoot the bitch," Hill ordered one of his gangmates, and a shotgun blast ended Sturdivant's 24-year life.

Temple told Fowlie he was the intended target, and the incident does appear to have been a retaliation for the shooting earlier in the day on Army Street. In all, two vehicles and five people were shot up. A pregnant girl standing on the corner -- her name was Muffin -- also died.

Hill was subsequently convicted of Sturdivant's murder and is serving a life sentence in Mule Creek Prison.

After the Third and Palou massacre, Fowlie was intent on getting Temple off the street. Otherwise, the cycle of retribution would only escalate. Temple soon offered himself up on a silver legal platter.

The California Highway Patrol arrested Temple in Modesto for carrying a stolen .357 Magnum pistol. In fact, the pistol had been stolen from the Highway Patrol. Possessing the weapon constituted a violation of Temple's parole, and the San Francisco Probation Department planned on revoking his probation at his next scheduled court appearance. That would have been June 14.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.