(SAN FRANCISCO) — A day after Cash App Founder Bob Lee was killed in San Francisco, a customer walked into a cafe blocks away from the crime scene and began to cry.
“She was looking at our pastry case and I did my normal, ‘Hey how is it going?'” Tommy Balcom, an employee at Philz Coffee, told ABC News. “I haven’t seen that look in anybody’s eyes, ever — someone with so much grief.”
The customer, who said she had been a close friend of Lee’s, asked Balcom: “‘Can you let me know everything will be OK?'” he said. “I said, ‘Of course, what can I do to help?’ I had no idea what she was talking about.'”
Balcom soon learned about Lee, who died of “apparent stab wounds” sustained early Tuesday morning in the San Francisco neighborhood of Rincon Hill, the San Francisco Police Department said.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Wednesday described the killing of Lee as “horrific.”
The murder has brought moments of shared grief and fueled discussion of safety among some in the relatively well-off neighborhood where the crime took place, according to interviews with workers at nearby businesses.
Some local employees said the incident underscores an ongoing sense of threat while others said they feel secure despite the harrowing news.
“Everybody’s talking about it,” Sam Habash, who has worked at nearby Gabby Market and Deli for 16 years, told ABC News. “They’re so sorry for his death.”
Habash, who said he usually works a nighttime shift from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., said he feels “very safe” in the area even after the crime.
Echoing that sentiment, Balcom said he considers the area “relatively safe,” but added that the killing had brought an “air of concern.”
“You have people talking about carrying pepper spray and which pepper spray is the best,” Balcom said.
In a statement on Wednesday, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said, “There is no place for this kind of violent crime against anyone in our city. I want to assure everyone that our investigators are working tirelessly to make an arrest and bring justice to Mr. Lee and his loved ones, just as we try to do on every homicide that occurs in our city.”
Overall, crime in San Francisco is down 9.7% this year compared to last year, but homicides are up 20%, robberies are up 13.6% and assaults are up 2.2%, San Francisco crime data shows.
Police responded to a report of a stabbing early Tuesday, around 2:35 a.m., and found a 43-year-old man suffering from stab wounds, the San Francisco Police Department said.
Officers called for medics, who transported the victim to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries, the police report said, adding that the victim ultimately died from the injuries.
Police confirmed Lee’s identity in a statement late Wednesday.
Jasmin Tejeda, an employee at Woodlands Pet Shop, a store blocks from the crime scene, lives in the area with her father.
“We thought it was going to be a safe neighborhood,” she said.
However, three or four times each month Tejeda encounters people in the store who are homeless or appear to have used drugs, she said.
“There are incidents where people come in and you have to deal with them,” she said.
The killing of Lee reminded Tejeda of why she prefers to work during the day, she added.
“I personally don’t feel comfortable doing closing shifts, just because I know these kinds of things happen,” she said.
Still, most residents appeared to downplay the threat of violence.
Eloy Garcia, a general manager at a nearby restaurant called Prospect, told ABC News that the tragic incident is an outlier.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” he said. “But overall it still feels relatively safe compared to other big cities.”
On Tuesday, the day of the murder, the environment at the restaurant was “business as usual,” he said.
“We have residents that live in the area and come here regularly — they were a little shocked,” he said. “But really it was a normal day for us.”
Balcom, of Philz Coffee, said the incident had evinced a “communal effect” of mutual support.
As a gesture of goodwill toward the customer who had entered the store crying, Balcom gave her a free coffee, he said.
ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed reporting.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.