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Police probe gay SF man’s death

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Sunday Jul 3, 2011

When Milton Ramirez heard that something had happened to Freddy Roberto Canul-Arguello, he didn't believe it.

Ramirez, who tends bar and performs in drag at Esta Noche in the Mission neighborhood, recalled saying, "You will see. He might just walk in the door any minute now."

But Canul-Arguello, 23, never returned to the bar, where he'd been a regular. San Francisco police said his burned body was found at about 5:30 a.m., Friday, June 10 in Buena Vista Park. The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office identified the body on June 24.

San Francisco Police homicide Inspector Robert Velarde said a friend had seen Canul-Arguello at 3 a.m. that Friday in the area of 18th and Castro streets. Between then and the time the body was found, "We don't have any idea where he was at," Velarde said.

Velarde, who said that Canul-Arguello's identity had been confirmed through fingerprints, said he didn't have any information on the circumstances around the killing.

Police are seeking the public's help in the case.

According to Canul-Arguello's family and others, he was gay. Those who knew him described him as hard working and fun loving.

The Cafe

The last time Ramirez, 31, saw Canul-Arguello was at about 1 a.m. that Friday morning, at the Cafe bar in the Castro neighborhood.

"He was drunk, but not to the point you were like, 'Okay, you have to go,'" Ramirez said. Ramirez has a photo on his phone from that night that shows Canul-Arguello embracing Ramirez's boyfriend, who was in drag, and holding what appears to be a beer.

Canul-Arguello didn't do drag often, Ramirez said, but he'd been talking to Ramirez's boyfriend about dressing up for the city's LGBT Pride celebration. Ramirez recalled that one of the younger man's drag names had been Pandora.

Tony Espinosa, 43, whose wife was Canul-Arguello's aunt, said he had last seen Canul-Arguello Thursday morning, June 9. The next day, someone from Pi bar, where the younger man worked, said he hadn't shown up, Espinosa said.

He said Canul-Arguello didn't talk much about his friends, but he said he was "always happy," and "I don't think he has any problems with anybody."

Canul-Arguello had lived in San Francisco for more than three years and most recently had lived with his brother, Ivan Canul-Arguello, 27, in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Their parents live in Mexico.

Espinosa said Ivan Canul-Arguello "doesn't speak much English," but he did have a message.

"Help. Help us to find who killed him," Espinosa said, interpreting for the elder Canul-Arguello.

Javier Perez, 29, Canul-Arguello's best friend, said the younger man was a hard worker, but he also liked to have fun. He had seen Canul-Arguello at about 1 a.m. at the Cafe, hours before he died, and said he'd been "very drunk." He said Canul-Arguello had been with a friend named Mario, whom Perez didn't know much about.

He didn't know Canul-Arguello to go to Buena Vista Park, which is known as a popular gay cruising spot.

However, he recalled warning Canul-Arguello to be careful about the people he went out with. He said that Canul-Arguello had once told him about meeting a man who was from Los Angeles in a bar.

"He went with him to have sex with him, and I told him, 'You don't know this guy,'" but Canul-Arguello had said, "No, he seems nice," Perez said.

Perez cried during a recent phone interview while discussing his friend.

"I feel he's somewhere else," Perez said. "He's not dead. I can't believe it, still."

'You can't believe how beautiful he is'

Panfilio Perez Garcia, 37, worked with Canul-Arguello at Luna Restaurant on Castro Street. He recently recalled the way Canul-Arguello used to dance in front of a huge mirror at the eatery, and how he'd always talked about his family.

Garcia - who recognized Canul-Arguello from a photo but remembered his name phonetically as Freddy Sean Canul - said he'd been Luna's best employee.

"You cannot believe how beautiful he is," Garcia said.

Late Sunday afternoon, June 26, on a steep hillside north of Buena Vista Park's tennis courts, yellow police tape still marked three clumps of trees where evidence connected with Canul-Arguello's death had been collected.

San Francisco's Civic Center area, where thousands of people were enjoying the last minutes of this year's LGBT Pride celebration, was visible from the park.

"Wherever he is, I miss him," Garcia said. "... He is always in my heart."

Police are asking anyone with information regarding this case to call inspectors Robert Velarde or Daniel Dedet at (415) 553-1145. Information can also be given anonymously at (415) 575-4444, or text-a-tip to TIP411. The case number is 110467285.

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