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.

Nash says LaFreniere managed to develop another hammer to hold over him. In April 1996, Nash's brother was arrested for assaulting police officers in S.F. and faced up to five years in prison. "It was the weight over me," Nash says. "If I did the right thing, the case would go away."

In August, Nash took the stand against the Soul-Jacker.
Apparently, though, Nash thought he had done the task force enough favors. In November, he called Lefcourt, and in a matter of hours was in Temple's lawyer's office, drafting a declaration.

In his sworn declaration, Nash recants his grand jury testimony, describing how, he says, he was spun to rat on Temple. Nash's version is thick with police and FBI heavy-handedness. He says Hendrix, the S.F. police inspector, told him on two occasions that "street sources" were saying Temple was going to kill Nash's family.

Nash also says LaFreniere and Andrews called him to a meeting on Treasure Island. "I was told by [the men] that they wanted to get Bernard on drug-related homicides that were capital offenses and were using this case to incarcerate Bernard to encourage other witnesses to come forward," Nash's declaration says.

On Aug. 13, 1996, that declaration claims, Nash was arrested in Alameda Superior Court and returned to Andrews' office in the San Francisco Hall of Justice.

"I was threatened with being incarcerated and 'bounced around the system' for a long time and that I would never see daylight if I did not cooperate," the declaration says. "They told me that I didn't want to end up like my friend Eric Thomas, who had been shot and paralyzed by the police. If I did cooperate, they would get me whatever I wanted, and they would help me change my face and fingerprints and relocate my family. Later on I found out that someone was spreading my name around the street as an informant. I believe that this was another tactic of the police to pressure me into helping them."

Nash says his handcuffs were taken off only as he was being led to the grand jury room to give his shaky testimony against Bernard Temple.

"Even though I lied about everything else," Nash's recantation concludes, "I could not lie that I saw Bernard shoot Walter Mullins because I never saw it happen."

Andrews says the declaration is a pack of lies.

None of Nash's erratic behavior surprises Andrews. He knows well who his witnesses are, how much of a credibility problem each of them will present. Any conceivable jury will be highly unimpressed with this cast of characters.

Would you take the word of Otis Gains, who, a police source says, turned state's evidence only after he was caught with a "pharmacy" of drugs, including heroin? Gains is a guy who was convicted of carjacking someone in 1992 and shooting up the car in the process. The same year, Gains was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for possession of sale amounts of heroin. When Gains was a juvenile, he was convicted of vehicular homicide.

And then there's Charles Johnson. He's a witness against Temple. He's a killer, too. In October 1981, Johnson and another man walked into a grocery store in Bayview-Hunters Point and shot and killed 35-year-old Jamil Abed, the counterman, during a botched robbery. After two mistrials, the DA allowed Johnson to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, for which he received four years in prison.

Andrews drops into an imitation of a possible address to the jury in a trial of Temple: "Ladies and gentlemen you are going to hate everyone you hear from today."

That's just the way it is when you try to break up gangs, Andrews says. The witnesses are bound to be as bad as the defendants.

"We are rarely able to go to trial in gang cases because of witness reluctance and other problems," Andrews says. "And when we do, it's really painful."

How successful the task force will be in the Temple and the Michael cases is hard to predict. But even if state and federal authorities get everything they want -- if Bernard Temple goes to prison for life, if all 16 Michael organization defendants get heavy sentences -- police familiar with crack gangs say there will always be someone to pick up the slack in Bayview-Hunters Point. There will always be new dealers, and people willing to kill for profit.

"He's just one of many," says an S.F. police officer who is an expert in crack gangs. The officer is talking about Charles Michael, but his words apply even when the gangbanger in question is Bernard Temple, assassin extraordinaire, the one and only Soul-Jacker of San Francisco.

"People have already filled his shoes.

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