San Francisco Police are searching for a man they say may have assaulted an elderly woman who was trying to protect the geese at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.
Police say that the alleged assault occurred on the west bank of the lake Friday morning. According to police, a child was possibly harassing some geese, so a woman, 82, scolded him or grabbed him by the neck. The man, who was in the park with the boy, then confronted the woman.
"We're not sure if the allegations that the woman grabbed the child are true," said San Francisco Officer Gordon Shyy. "We don't know if the man had a right to contact the woman. It really depends on the situation, which is why we need the man to come forward so we can get his side of the story."
John Steele, who works at the Stow Lake boathouse, said he rushed to help the woman after someone ran to report that she was hurt, and he found her with a bloodstain on the back of her head.
"Nobody was really there. No one saw it except for the man, his kid and the woman," Steele said.
Steele said the man, who he described as angry and concerned, told him that he pushed the woman after she grabbed his son's neck in order to get him away from the geese. The man also told Steele that the woman fell after he pulled her away from the boy and hit her head on the pavement.
Police say that the man and boy stayed with the woman until her husband arrived and drove her home. But hours later, the woman began to feel very ill.
"About five hours after the incident, the woman went to the hospital and that is when we were called in to investigate," said Shyy.
She was admitted to St. Mary's Medical center with a potentially life-threatening head injury, as well as minor cuts on her arm, police said. According to police, her condition has improved, but she was in the intensive care unit Monday.
Police said they hope someone who saw the incident will be able to provide information that would give some clarity to the whole incident. The only description that police have of the suspect is that he is a white male. They also don't know what charges might be filed yet, because they only have one side of the story, Shyy said.
For frequent visitors of Stow Lake like James Tuoto, news of someone being attacked for defending the geese is saddening.
"They really love these things, you know," Tuoto told KGO. "It really helps them with their lives, it gives them something to look forward to every day, come out here and feed the birds, it's crazy, but they give them names."