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.

He feels a violent force strike the back of his head, and he thinks he's been shot. But Isler is in luck (which is, granted, an extremely relative concept at this point). He's merely being beaten into submission with golf clubs.

After the beating, Temple and his posse drive off looking for more action. They find their next victim, Russell Winston, waiting for a haircut appointment in front of a barber shop on Broad Street, three blocks from where the HP gang left Isler bleeding on the sidewalk.

Jumping out of Temple's car, Danny Boy confronts Winston, demanding money he says he is owed. Winston is less than forthcoming, and Danny Boy raps him over the head with a golf club. As Winston tries to escape into a nearby liquor store, Danny Boy whacks him in the face, severely damaging his eye and breaking the club.

Apparently satisfied with their violent mission, Temple and the other cars load up and head onto nearby Highway 280 toward the safety of Hunters Point. Screaming down the highway in clear weather, Temple flies across all lanes of traffic and loses control of his Honda, 150 feet from the Alemany Boulevard offramp. He sideswipes the center divider, spins out, slams head-on into the divider, spins 180 degrees, and, heading backward, hits the divider one more time, turning the front end into an accordion and his own head into a bloody mess. Temple and his passengers scramble across lanes of freeway traffic to jump into one of the other HP cars and head off for the hospital.

When police and state troopers show up at San Francisco General Hospital to investigate the Oceanside beatings and the hit-and-run accident on 280, they find a strange situation indeed. Temple and his passengers lie on gurneys in the hall outside the emergency room; inside, doctors are working to save Winston's eye and patch up Isler.

Despite all the mayhem of that day in September 1991; regardless of the negative opinions of Temple's probation officer, developed over two years of work with the gangbanger; regardless of the 2-1/2-year gang investigation by Officer Fowlie that established Temple as a gang leader; regardless of the man's widespread reputation as a hard-ass gang member, a killer, a soul-jacker; regardless of his well-known and pivotal role in the gang war frenzy in Bayview-Hunters Point; regardless of all these horribly incriminating realities, as a result of the mayhem of Sept. 9, 1991, Bernard Temple is required only to plead guilty to one minor charge: receiving stolen property, a beeper he took from Isler.

Temple is sentenced on Feb. 27, 1992, to 16 months in jail. Even that is eventually reduced to nine months of actual lockup in the county clink. By Christmas, he's back on the street.

Robert Nash is trapped in the worst imaginable way. Now that he has ratted on the Soul-Jacker and screwed the DA by recanting his testimony against Temple, Nash has a contract killer and a task force full of prosecutors and federal agents dropping him from their Christmas card lists. But lives have a way of getting tangled up like uncoiled fishing line when the federal government brings its power to bear.

Gang prosecutor Floyd Andrews says Nash, his former star witness, turned snitch in 1993 when, at the foggy bottom of a fumbling criminal career, FBI agent LaFreniere was there waiting for him with an offer he didn't refuse.

At the time, Nash was going to Fresno State University under an assumed name and playing tailback for the college football team, the Bulldogs. His rap sheet at the time, which was launched in 1987 at the age of 19, included three convictions for possession of crack for sale.

He says he had moved to Fresno hoping to leave behind a San Francisco arrest warrant for attacking his wife with a knife. Down in the San Joaquin Valley, though, Nash couldn't help screwing up again: He got busted carrying crack and was ordered to participate in a drug program.

Somehow, LaFreniere found out, and Nash says he was returned to San Francisco. There, he faced the possibility of serious prison time for the knife attack and the violation of the probated sentence he received for a 1992 drug bust.

Back in S.F., with the state pen staring at him, Nash made a deal. Court records show that he was sentenced to a mere 79 days in jail -- a sentence that happened to precisely equal the time he had already served in jail.

Back on probation and out of jail, Nash was free to help the federal gang task force.

In June, Nash was busted for shoplifting and passing bad checks; he got probation again, he says. At the same time, he decided to split the state. It's unclear if he had LaFreniere's permission.

Nash landed in Kansas, where he attended a state college until May 1995. He also accumulated yet another criminal charge; this time it was sexual assault. Nash says he was tracked down again by LaFreniere, who convinced the Kansas authorities to hold off on the sex charge and allow him to take his informant back to S.F. Landing here in the summer of 1995, Nash promptly got in trouble again. He was arrested twice, for car theft and for yet another wife-beating. He got three months and in December was out on the streets again, working for the feds.

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