SAN FRANCISCO — Although San Francisco is no stranger to violent crime, the Jan. 7, 2009 killing of sushi chef Ryosuke Yoshioka was considered shocking.
The 59-year-old Kobe native went to the Office Max on Geary and Arguello in the city’s Richmond District that day around 2:45 p.m. While walking from his car to the store, he was randomly attacked in the parking garage by Peter C. Fong, now 49, of San Francisco, a mentally ill man who, according to his lawyer, had suffered a psychotic break.
He slashed Yoshioka’s throat, nearly decapitating him. Armed with a gun as well as a knife, Fong was held down by two passersby, a 64-year-old man and his grandson, until police arrived. More weapons were found in his apartment.
Yoshioka, known to his friends as Ryo, was considered a culinary pioneer who established one of the city’s first sushi bars in 1979, and was planning to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his restaurant, Sushi Man, located on Bush Street not far from Union Square. Instead, his wife and teenage son had to plan his funeral and close the business. They have faced emotional and financial hardship ever since.
Under new management, the space is now occupied by a popular restaurant called Sushi Toni.
More than four years after the crime, Fong was sentenced May 17 to spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. He had pleaded guilty to murder charges, but Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong ruled that doctors had determined him insane and that he should be institutionalized instead of going to prison.
Fong apologized to the victim’s family in court, saying, “The doctors told me I have a mental illness, and I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life. But I’ll also have to live with the fact that I took another person’s life. I wish I could take back what happened.”
Yoshioka’s widow, Miyuki, submitted a victim impact statement that was read in court by a family friend. She described her husband as a happy man who looked forward to sharing sake with his son, Ryoma, on his 21st birthday.
“Before my husband’s death, my whole life was about our family and our restaurant,” she said. “In a way, you took my life that day, too.”
Ryoma Yoshioka, who was 15 when he lost his father, said he considered suicide at the time, but is now in college.
“Forgiveness will never happen — don’t expect it from me,” he said. “But I will slowly grow and heal and become a good person, just like my father was.”
In the comments section of SFgate.com, a poster with the screen name “Invested” claimed to be a friend of the assailant and wrote, “Peter was a member of our running group and we all knew of his problems, his weapons collection and other situations. We, like the police and the neighbors, could do nothing because there was no law we could invoke. Had Laura’s Law been on the books it would have provided an avenue for treatment and preventive care.
“San Francisco, its mayor, its supervisors, its Department of Public Health people and others are to blame. Instead of cutting acute ward psychiatry beds, we need more. Why are so many left to fend for themselves, untreated, uncared for and a danger to themselves and to us? Mental illness is a physically based disability of the person. Effective care and treatment is the only solution.”