Home services

Marina Occasions – ‘Hanako beloved San Francisco’

On the one year anniversary of the tragic death of her daughter, Hiroko Abe is waiting for justice – and hoping for change

When Hiroko Abe got a zoom call from District Attorney Chesa Boudin of San Francisco, she was in a virtual room full of strangers speaking a language she didn’t understand. From her home in Japan, Abe struggled to understand the conversation about what happened on New Year’s Eve 2020 when her 27-year-old daughter Hanako was killed on a zebra crossing along with another woman, 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt. on Second and Mission Streets. The prosecution had provided a translator who was unable to translate from English to Japanese. “I had a break in the middle of the zoom. I couldn’t understand what was happening, ”Abe said. “I finally understood the situation after receiving a statement from Hanako’s friend in San Francisco. I learned that many mistakes led to Hanako’s death. “

These mistakes made national news, not only because the story was tragic, but also because it was totally preventable. The suspect, 45-year-old Troy McAlister, was suspended for robbery and fled a break-in shortly before the fatal accident in a stolen car. Since his release in March 2020, he had been arrested five times for criminal offenses including burglary, possession of burglar tools, vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics for sale, possession of suspected methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and of course parole violation.

On November 6, 2020, San Francisco State University police arrested McAlister for breaking into a vehicle, and when they checked his file they were so alarmed that they included a note on their report for the district attorney: “This suspect is dangerous. He has 73 crimes and 34 offenses in SF alone.

On December 20, 2020, just 10 days before the hit and run that killed Hanako and Elizabeth, police arrested McAlister again. As with previous incidents, no new charges were brought. McAlister served a total of 11 days in prison for the five arrests.


As a candidate, Chesa Boudin, a former public defender who advocated reform of the judicial system and the accountability of police officers, pledged not to use penalty increases such as gang membership or previous strikes.

In March 2020, just three months after serving as district attorney, Boudin brokered a plea deal for McAlister and sentenced him to prison – just five years in County Jail awaiting trial in a 2015 robbery case. During that 2015 case, prosecutors wanted McAlister to be released to the Salvation Army adult rehabilitation center. Prosecutors (headed by the very progressive George Gascón at the time) declined, finding that McAlister was in possession of methamphetamine and had robbed and assaulted a police officer while on parole; had “a history of violent convictions for major capital crimes dating back to 1995” and was on his third strike with six prison ancestors “resulting in 35 years of life imprisonment in state prison.”

In September I wrote a column for my newsletter Gotham by the Bay (https://susanreynolds.substack.com) about McAlister’s eventful history and the case against him following the deaths of Hanako and Elizabeth and Hanako’s mother. Hiroko reached out to thank me and asked if we could talk about Zoom through Tasha Yorozu, a lawyer who does not represent her but who kindly volunteered to translate.

During a nearly two-hour Zoom call, Hiroko struggled to hold back tears, occasionally sobbing as she tried to catch her breath. “I’m sorry for crying so much,” she said. “I have been crying less since Hanako’s death, but the heartache is still the same. And when I feel connected to someone, the tears just flow. Thank you for this opportunity, but I apologize for continuing to cry. ”I told her there was no need to apologize. “When you love someone so much, I think you will never stop crying,” I said.


Hanako grew up in Fukushima, Japan, where she and her family survived the 2011 Sendai earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Her father, Tsuneo, worked for a local newspaper company, and her mother, Hiroko, is a professional singer who teaches classical song singing in the local community. With Hiroko surviving lung cancer and being prone to disease, Hanako has taken on many roles. Despite all odds, Hanako was accepted to the University of Central Arkansas, where she studied computer science. After graduating in 2018, she moved to San Francisco where she accepted a position as a data engineer for a real estate company. She regularly sent home money to help her family. In January 2019, her father nearly died of aortic dissection, a rare tear in the inner layer of the aorta. Hanako went back to Japan to visit her father in the hospital. It was the last time he saw his daughter alive.

When I asked Hiroko what people should know about their daughter, she said, “Hanako loved San Francisco; She wanted to be there, she chose, there were many opportunities, but she made it. But the longer she was there, she began to notice many security issues, especially towards the end of her life, and all she wanted to do was make San Francisco better and safer. ”

Hiroko and Hanako spoke almost every day. “We were just peas in a pod,” said Hiroko. “Hanako has always been excited about ‘What is my contribution to making this a safer, more beautiful place?’ When I heard of her sudden death, all I could think of was what I could do to keep Hanako’s love for San Francisco alive; not just her legacy, but her pure love, alive. And in this context of “What can I do to be part of this process?”, I feel that as Mother I can carry on Hanako’s legacy so that her death brings something good, an impetus for change and means something. ”

She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and her voice cracked. “Hanako was very nice and thoughtful and was a sure-fire success. She thought about things, put them into action, and took responsibility and decision-making over her life even when the odds were against her. We are a financially very modest family, so there are no opportunities that arise, but Hanako pursued these opportunities despite many adversities and found a way. ”

One of Hanako’s passions was running. SF Runs founder Leonard Adler organized a virtual “Run for Hanako Abe” event shortly after her death and honors her on the website to this day. “Hana loved running and had run SF Runs before … Hana embodied resilience, courage and hope …” it is sometimes said.

Hiroko said she would like to find a nonprofit to work with and sponsor an annual “Run for Hanako,” where people can raise awareness and raise funds to make San Francisco “a safer, cleaner, better place.” close. She also wants to start a scholarship for young people like Hanako, who persevere despite all adversities. “The Hanako Abe GoFundMe is everyone’s money – so many people put money in this account. And I would like to use some of that money to do these things, ”said Hiroko.


When Hiroko Boudin was finally able to ask why he had made the decision to free McAlister, which ultimately led to the death of her daughter, she was shocked by his answer. “He said, ‘Because he worked hard and got his GED in prison.’ I told him that a GED has nothing to do with whether that person is rehabilitated and ready to be accepted back into society, and he didn’t respond. I also told him that it appears that McAlister is a common drug user. In Japan, even after serving your sentence, there is compulsory rehabilitation that you must go through before being released into society. Boudin said it was the same in America; that once you are released you will be placed in a rehab system and it looks like the rehab officers should have known how badly McAlister was addicted and the rehab people were wrong in their judgment. But I asked him, ‘Didn’t you know how the system as a whole works? And if you know how the system works, why should you let him go? ‘ Boudin has just given an answer without an answer and apologized. “

Hiroko also knows that because of sovereign immunity, prosecutors “can pretty much admit anything and apologize and know they are safe”. At the top are judges for immunity, then prosecutors, while the police have qualified immunity. It is rare for the police to be held accountable, although it is more common in outrageous cases.

Last June, Hiroko hired an attorney to file a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco. “If that claim is accepted, they usually negotiate either compensation or policy and procedure changes, but they have denied the claim. She is aware that sovereign immunity is difficult to overcome, but she hopes that there is a lawyer willing to represent the family. Even if they lose the lawsuit, she believes it could be a catalyst for change in the judicial system, “so it may be the kind of San Francisco Hanako that has been imagined and discussed many times.”


Since Hiroko hasn’t heard from the prosecutor since shortly after Hanako’s death, I asked Boudin’s media spokeswoman Rachel Marshall if McAlister had been charged with his three previous strikes. Typically, Marshall didn’t respond, so Hiroko turned to Sai Douangsawang in victim support. Douangsawang responded that only one of McAlister’s criminal records is on strike, according to Assistant District Attorney Ryan Kao, who is handling the case.

In other words, even after McAlister killed two innocent women while escaping a crime in a stolen car, Boudin refuses to charge the three previous attacks. This opens the door to a much milder sentence, with little, if any, time in prison for McAlister.

Hiroko wants to be sure it goes beyond any punishment McAlister gets. “If McAlister shows no remorse or tries to turn his life around if he gets out, it is neither good for him nor for San Francisco. It is our responsibility as a society to see that McAlister is rehabilitated before he is released. “

Email: susan@marinatimes.com. Follow Susan and the Marina Times on Twitter: @SusanDReynolds and @TheMarinaTimes.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button