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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Bevan Hurley

Everything we know about the murder of Cash App founder Bob Lee in San Francisco

Twitter / Bob Lee

High-profile tech entrepreneur Bob Lee was stabbed to death outside an apartment building in San Francisco early on Tuesday morning, grieving friends and family have confirmed.

The 43-year-old was found at 2.35am outside a luxury high rise apartment on the 300 block of Main St, near Rincon Hill and the Bay Bridge, with life-threatening stab wounds, the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement. 

The tech executive was treated at the scene by first responders before being rushed to hospital where he died from his injuries, police said. No arrests have been made.

Here’s what we know so far about the murder.

Random attack?

The San Francisco Police Department said in a statement that Mr Lee was found with fatal stab wounds in Downtown San Francisco between Soma and the Financial District, a block from Google’s San Francisco headquarters.

Cash App creator Bob Lee has reportedly been stabbed to death in San Francisco (MobileCoin)

Friend and MMA fighter Jake Shields tweeted that Mr Lee appeared to have been the victim of a random mugging in the “good part of the city”.

The tweet caught the attention of Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who offered his condolences and called on San Francisco district attorney Brooke Jenkins to take tougher action against violent criminals.

“Many people I know have been severely assaulted,” Mr Musk tweeted. “Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately. Is the city taking stronger action to incarcerate repeat violent offenders Brooke Jenkins?”

Elon Musk has been a frequent critic of efforts to reform criminal justice in San Francisco (Associated Press)

Ms Jenkins later tweeted her “sincerest condolences” to Mr Lee’s grief-stricken family and friends.

“We do not tolerate these horrific acts of violence in San Francisco,” she added.

Responding to Mr Musk, she said: “No one who commits a violent crime, or who’s a repeat offender are receiving overly lenient plea deals.”

San Francisco Police said they have not made any arrests, and haven’t provided any details of suspects.

In their statement, the SFPD said responding officers had found a 43-year-old victim with stab wounds: “Officers rendered aid and summoned medics to the scene. The victim was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. Despite efforts by first responders and medical personnel, the victim succumbed to his injuries.”

Onlookers ignored Lee’s plea for help

Surveillance footage appears to capture Mr Lee approach a parked car clutching one side of his body and bleeding heavily from stab wounds.

The 43-year-old father of two lifts his shirt to show the driver the extent of his injuries, but rather than help, the motorist speeds off.

Those last tragic moments as he stumbled down Main St in San Francisco’s downtown district at 2.30am on Tuesday in search of help were caught on CCTV and viewed by journalists from The San Francisco Standard.

The footage initially shows Mr Lee walking along a deserted sidewalk on Main St with his mobile phone in one hand and holding his side with the other, The Standard reports.

Bob Lee, who founded the Cash App, was stabbed to death in the early hours of Tuesday morning in San Francisco (Twitter / Bob Lee)

The Cash App founder then crosses at the intersection with Harrison St toward where a white Toyota Camry with flashing lights is parked.

The footage reportedly shows Mr Lee lift up his shirt in a plea for help, and then fall to the ground as the driver pulls away.

Mr Lee then gets back to his feet and starts to retraces his steps along Main St in the direction of the Bay Bridge before collapsing again outside of the Portside apartment building at 403 Main St.

The Standard reported that it witnessed staff members cleaning what appeared to be blood from the side of the building on Wednesday.

Father says he lost his ‘best friend’

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Lee’s grieving father Rick Lee described the slain tech mogul as his “best friend”.

Mr Lee Sr wrote that the pair had lived together in Mill Valley, California, since the death of his wife in 2019, before relocating to Miami in October last year.

“Bob would give you the shirt off his back. He would never look down on anyone and adhered to a strict no-judgment philosophy,” his father wrote.

Rick Lee wrote that “life has been an adventure with two bachelors living together”, and the pair had grown close in recent years: “Bobby worked harder than anyone and was the smartest person I have ever known. He will be missed by all those that knew him.”

Bob Lee pictured at the New York Stock Exchange in 2015 on the day that Square, now known as Block, listed as a public company (Facebook / Bob Lee)

Bob Lee’s brother Tim wrote in a separate post that he was “saddened and disheartened” over the senseless slaying.

Mr Lee was also survived by his wife Krista and their two children.

‘Crazy Bob’

Bob Lee was a much-loved member of the San Francisco tech community, where he was affectionately known as Crazy Bob.

After working as an open source code developer in St Louis, Missouri, Mr Lee moved to San Francisco in his early 20s in 2004 to work as an engineer at Google, according to the San Francisco Standard. There he led a team that developed the first Android app.

Mr Lee was headhunted by Square, becoming its 13th employee, where he helped launch the Cash App and became the payment firm’s first chief technology officer in 2011, a Linkedin profile shows.

Bob Lee, known to his friends as ‘Crazy Bob’, was knifed to death in central San Francisco early on Tuesday morning (Twitter / Bob Lee)

After leaving Square in 2014, he invested in several tech startups including Clubhouse, Beeper and Faire, and the female-focused social media and networking company Present. He identified as a “stay at home dad” in an online blog post during this period.

In 2021, Mr Lee joined MobileCoin, a crypto payment firm, as its chief product officer.

Stabbing shakes San Francisco tech community 

Mr Lee’s former boss Jack Dorsey was one of a many well known San Francisco tech entrepreneurs to express their shock and grief at his death.

“It’s real,” Mr Dorsey wrote on his social network Nostr. “Getting calls. Heartbreaking. Bob was instrumental to Square and Cash App. STL guy,” he wrote, in an apparent reference to Mr Lee’s hometown of St Louis.

MobileCoin CEO Joshua Goldbard wrote that Mr Lee was an “incredible human being”.

“Bob was so much more than a technologist. Bob was an artist. Everywhere he went Bob breathed love into this world. He had so much deep heartfelt love. Traveling with Bob was like seeing the world for the first time,” Mr Goldbard wrote.

“As a lifelong Bay Area resident I have more questions than answers tonight. I don’t know how to fix what’s wrong, but I know something isn’t working in our grey city,” he added.

Tributes poured in for the slain tech founder from his many friends in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Jack Dorsey at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, Florida (Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images)

“He was a generous decent human being who didn’t deserve to be killed,” Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra, posted on Twitter.

“So sad to hear of @crazybob’s untimely passing,” Figma CEO Dylan Field wrote on Twitter. “I first met him in summer 2006 — he didn’t care that I was only 14 and we talked tech / geeked out about programming. We remained connected over the years and he was an early supporter of Figma. It’s so hard to believe he is gone.”

Other Silicon Valley executives laid the blame for Mr Lee’s death on Mayor London Breed and the city’s Board of Supervisors.

“Congratulations, your policies have claimed another life,” wrote Alan Alden, a Palo Alto financier who was friends with Mr Lee.

Venture capitalist Matt Ocko, another friend, wrote on Twitter that “Chesa Boudin, & the criminal-loving city council that enabled him & a lawless SF for years, have Bob’s literal blood on their hands”.

On the San Francisco Reddit forum, friends and acquaintances of Mr Lee expressed frustration at “all the needless violence”.

“Something seriously needs to change in this city,” one wrote.

Crime in San Francisco

San Francisco is often portrayed as a lawless city where drug use and homelessness have fueled a surge in violent crime and robberies.

That narrative led in part to former District Attorney Chesa Boudin being ousted in a recall election in June last year, after he sought to eliminate cash bail and reduce the prison population.

Ms Jenkins took over as District Attorney on a platform of balancing criminal justice reform while making stiffer penalties for violent offenders, and won re-election last November,

She did not immediately respond to a request by The Independent for comment about Mr Lee’s murder.

Members of the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team’s Encampment Resolution Team speak to with homeless people in San Francisco in 2022 (file) (Associated Press. )

Figures from the San Francisco Police Department’s crime reports show the situation is more complicated than often portrayed.

While some violent crime began increasing during the pandemic, rates were still much lower than in previous years.

In 2022, homicide rates remained flat at 55, exactly the same number as the previous year. Homicides hit a 56-year low in the city in 2019, when 41 people were killed in the city.

There have been 12 homicides in the city so far in 2023, preliminary data shows.

Aggravated assault, robbery and rape increased in 2022, but was still much lower than in 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to San Francisco crime statistics.

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