'Hot Cop of the Castro' Stands Trial for 2015 Hit and Run - March 7, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

‘Hot Cop of the Castro’ Stands Trial for 2015 Hit and Run

Officer Christopher Kohrs (Courtesy Photo)

It was around 3 a.m. when the orange 2009 Dodge Charger hit two pedestrians as they crossed the intersection of Broadway and Montgomery streets. The collision was serious — the car’s front windshield on the driver’s side was completely shattered. Airbags went off, the left side mirror was knocked loose, and the car’s bumper was damaged. Pedestrian Frank Vichez, who was crossing the street at the time of the collision, lay in the street, bleeding heavily from the back of his head. His friend, Victor Perez, also seriously injured, was nearby.

Three men — 40-year-old Christopher Kohrs, who was driving, his brother Nathan, and a friend, Dr, Norman Banks, got out of the car.

“Oh shit, oh shit, what do we do?” Banks remembers saying.

The trio had been out at a club earlier in the evening, and both he and Nathan was drunk. Kohrs was the designated driver.

A crowd began to gather. “I heard ‘That’s the hot cop, he hit someone’,” Banks said in court.

As Banks began to walk over to one of the victims, Kohrs fled the scene on foot — leaving his car, his brother, and Banks behind.

The series of events that took place in the hours after the collision is at the center of a court case that began Wednesday morning, more than two years after that fateful event on Nov. 29, 2015. Judge Carol Yaggy, who recently oversaw the Binh Luc quadruple homicide case, is presiding.

Kohrs, known popularly as “The Hot Cop of the Castro,” faces two charges: hit and run causing serious permanent injury, and hit and run causing injury. He is out of custody on $100,000 bail, and is on unpaid leave from the San Francisco Police Department, pending the investigation. He appeared in court Wednesday well dressed, in a navy blue suit, polished brown shoes, and a green tie, flanked by two attorneys.

Kohrs’ name was well-known in San Francisco before his vehicular mishap. A beat cop for the Castro District, he’d been regularly photographed while on the job. A fan page was subsequently created by what his defense attorney Peter Furst calls “a certain community.” His reputation only heightened when he participated topless in an ice bucket challenge charity event.

This fame is central to his defense. The collision occurred after bars closed, and the North Beach neighborhood was filled with revelers. People were drawn to the scene, and a crowd formed. How large it was remains under debate — but in his opening statements to the jury Wednesday, Furst claims a witness said it was more than 100. Phones were pulled out to record videos, and the scene grew tense.

“The situation definitely made me feel uncomfortable,” Banks said on the bench.

Furst notes that his client, a seven-year veteran of SFPD, “became extremely frightened. He was unarmed, he was alone, in the sense that he did not have other officers with him.”

This fear, Furst implies, was a justifiable reason to flee. And Kohrs did turn himself in at 11 a.m. the next morning — albeit more than seven hours after the incident occurred.

Prosecutor Rolando Mazariegos from the District Attorney’s office argues that Kohrs did not abide by his legal duty to stay at the scene, call 911, and provide aid to the victims. Calling it a “violent automobile collision,” Mazariegos showed the jury, which consists of four women and 10 men, photos of the car complete with a seriously shattered windshield. Pools of blood can be spotted on the asphalt in the places where the victims lay.

“He chose flight over duty,” Mazariegos said.

And Kohrs didn’t just flee — he appeared to have actively evaded capture in the hours after the event. A sergeant who arrived on the scene shortly after the collision immediately recognized Kohrs’ muscle car. Units were dispatched his house, but he wasn’t home. He told police later that he’d spent the night in San Bruno.

Wednesday’s opening statements offered a colorful glimpse into the unfortunate events that took place that November morning in 2015. Future witnesses who will take the stand include the sergeant who first arrived on the scene and bystander who saw the aftermath of the collision. The case is expected to run continuously for the next two weeks.