Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 17, 2024
Teen Identified as Suspect in Widely Reported Waymo Firebombing in San Francisco's ChinatownSource: X / SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT

A 14-year-old boy has been suspected of setting a Waymo autonomous vehicle on fire in San Francisco's Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations, the San Francisco Police Department said Wednesday. The Juvenile Probation Department will decide if the teen will be arrested or appear in court out of custody after the San Francisco District Attorney's Office filed charges, San Francisco Police reported. His name was not released because he is a juvenile.

The incident, which took place on February 10 just before 9 p.m., saw the car engulfed in flames after being broken into and tagged. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, videos on social media showed the perpetrators using a skateboard to break into the car's windows. Police have yet to publicly identify further suspects but have stated that the investigation remains open.

Evidence related to the act of vandalism has been seized by police from the suspect's residence after serving a search warrant on March 27, the SFPD announced. During the celebrations on Jackson Street, the Waymo vehicle was autonomously operating and had just completed a drop-off when it was targeted by the suspects and set alight with fireworks, according to San Francisco Chronicle's earlier reports.

In the wake of the attack, San Francisco Mayor London Breed condemned the arson saying, "It was a dangerous and destructive act of vandalism," and emphasized that such acts do not define the city, as she was quoted in a press release obtained by Hoodline San Francisco. The damaged vehicle had also been used by the San Francisco Fire Department in public safety videos. Despite the potential setback to the city's image as a hub for emerging technologies, authorities continue to actively work to bring all involved parties to justice.

The SFPD is believed to have potential video evidence from the attacked vehicle's onboard cameras that could assist in identifying other perpetrators. A Waymo spokesperson expressed their relief that the vehicle was unoccupied at the time of the attack, and no injuries were reported, as was detailed by Hoodline San Francisco.