Key Witness in Chris Brymer Hate Crime Case Contradicts Story of Police, Prosecutors
Police had claimed in sworn court testimony that Henry Therkield told them Brymer threatened to kill him or somebody else during an encounter at a soup kitchen on July 19. But Therkield, a homeless drifter and registered sex offender, said in an interview with SF Weekly on Friday that Brymer never made such threats.
Therkield also said Brymer's alleged assault victim, Shaun Parker, has moved away from San Francisco -- a development that could complicate the prosecution's efforts to mount a case. Therkield said he warned Parker to leave town after he learned he had badly beaten a woman they both know, and that Parker has since gone to Los Angeles. "Shaun ain't coming back," Therkield said. "I'm gonna whup his ass. ... He's scared to death."
Brymer has been charged with threatening Therkield on July 19 in a soup kitchen at Mission Rock and Third Street. San Francisco Police Officer Matthew Parra testified during a preliminary hearing on Aug. 4 that Therkield reported Brymer had approached him in the soup kitchen and said, "Someone is gonna die." Brymer was also charged with hate crime assault for allegedly attacking Parker, Therkield's acquaintance, outside the kitchen, while saying, "Die, nigger, die."
However, in an interview on Friday, Therkield -- who did not testify at the preliminary hearing -- denied Brymer had said "someone is gonna die" in the soup kitchen. "I can't say that. I didn't hear it," Therkield said. His account could be significant, since one of the felony charges filed against Brymer -- for criminal threatening of Therkield -- is based entirely on the alleged statement.
Parker's absence could also be an obstacle for the prosecution. He could still be subpoenaed from L.A., but his testimony is currently the sole evidence regarding Brymer's alleged assault. Therkield said he didn't personally witness the altercation between Brymer and Parker outside the soup kitchen, although he did hear Brymer call both himself and Parker "nigger."
Instead -- in a version of events that could boost Brymer's claim that he acted in self-defense against Parker and Therkield -- Therkield said he went into the soup kitchen to try to find a weapon with which to kill Brymer while Parker was busy with him outside. "My hand to God, on my mother's grave, I was going to kill Chris," Therkield told SF Weekly. "I was going to the kitchen where the knives were."
The district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment on Therkield's new statements. Brymer's case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang.
Deputy Public Defender Nicole Solis, Brymer's lawyer, said the statements are further evidence that all charges against Brymer should be dropped. "I just know that the (assistant) DA is probably not taking a look at this case as he should," she said. "I believe that they are not acting in good faith. It is a malicious prosecution."
As we reported in this week's cover story, medical experts and family members of Brymer believe he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a crippling brain disorder that appears in football players who have gone through repeated head trauma. Among the disease's symptoms are irrational bouts of anger and schizophrenia-like delusions.
Photo of Therkield | Courtesy California Department of Justice