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What Killed Ted Gullicksen? Part 2
by Michael Steinberg (blackrainpress [at]
Saturday Mar 14th, 2015 11:48 PM
In the first part of this report, I detailed my efforts to answer that question.

What follows is what I've found out since then.

In the first part of this report, I detailed my efforts to answer that question.

As a friend and associate of Ted Gullicksen’s from the ‘90s on through Homes Not Jails, the squatter’s group that takes over abandoned buildings with homeless people, I too was shocked and dismayed by Ted’s sudden death last October 14.

Michael Canright, a founder of the San Francisco Tenants Union, first raised the question of a possible landlord role in Ted’s death with me at the end of last year, and urged me to investigate that possibility.

Ted’s death occurred less than a month before last November’s election. The top measure on the ballot for SF tenants was Proposition G, which would have made real estate speculators pay big bucks for flipping houses in San Francisco.

This, in turn, would have slowed displacement of tenants from the city, and brought a modicum of justice to low income residents who are the most exploited of those forced out of SF by real estate sharks.

Ted Gullicksen was among the most outspoken housing activists organizing these folks to pass Prop G.

So why did he die three weeks before the vote?
To begin to find out, I contacted the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office on December 15, two months after Ted’s heart stopped beating. That office is responsible for determining the cause of death for people who die in the city.

But it didn’t have any answers yet. I was told that could take as long as four months. And that this process was complicated, besides which there was a large backlog of cases waiting to be “resolved.”

So I waited an entire month and then called the Medical Examiner’s office again on January 15. Ted’s cause of death had yet to be determined. But someone did tell me that this was supposed to take place within 12 weeks of death. After that, next of kin are first notified, and then the Death Certificate becomes public information. I was also informed Ted’s body had been examined on October 17, three days after his death.

By January 15 it was 13 weeks later.
On January 22 the SF Chronicle ran a story on the front page of the Bay Area section, “SF hires new chief medical examiner: Florida doctor baffled by 800-case backlog.”

Welcome to SF, Doc.

My next call to the beleaguered SF Medical Examiner’s office was on February 3. I once again was told that the investigation of Ted’s cause of death was “still pending.” It was now 16 weeks after Ted died.

Birth of Proposition G

The beginning of what was to become Proposition G was at a neighborhood tenant convention at the Park Library in the Haight Ashbury in 2013. This was one of a series of such meetings held across the city to deal with its housing crisis.

Ted Gullicksen was facilitating this meeting. The first part was a discussion of the various components of the crisis: evictions, outrageous rent increases, real estate speculation, abandoned housing, and other causes of displacement.

The second part of the meeting entertained proposals for solutions to these problems. A hand went up from a longtime SF community activist. He spelled out a proposal that would make it much more expensive for real estate speculators to do their dirty work in San Francisco.

At the conclusion of our meeting we voted on which proposals we favored.

At the beginning of 2014 the results from all the neighborhood tenant conventions were brought to a jam packed citywide tenant convention held at a public school in the Tenderloin.

After speeches by community housing organizers, including Ted, and affected tenants, we split up into groups to discuss the various proposals and then fill out paper ballots to select the final choice to put on the November ballot.
The whole process was truly democracy in action.

Ted happened to be coordinating the meeting I attended. I remember him remarking, “We’ve got the power now.”

And so it was the tenants of San Francisco’s decision to place what came to be Proposition G on the November 2014 ballot.

Finally, Answers, Of Sorts

My next call to the Medical Examiner’s office was on February 10, week 17 without Ted. Again I got the word that the investigation of the cause of his death was “still pending.”

During an earlier call I’d been told that if the case was still unresolved the next time I checked, I could ask to be connected to the pathologist who was investigating, and request to be notified about where things were at. Which I did this time.

Then I called back, and found out that the pathologist I’d just left a message for was Dr. Ellen Moffatt, assistant medical examiner.

Moffatt didn’t contact me, so on February 18 I called once more. When I asked if Ted’s cause of death had been determined, I was put on hold. After a while I got the answer. The cause of death was, ” Hypertensive atherosclerotic heart disease.”

In other words, high blood pressure and blocked arteries, in the language of the living.

I took a day to mull this over, then called one more time to see what they would say this time around. They left out the hypertensive part, but otherwise it was the same.
“So,” I asked, “what was the immediate cause of death? Was it s heart attack? A stroke?”
“No,” replied the person I was speaking with.
“So his arteries were blocked and his heart just stopped?”

On February 27 I went to the Department of Health at 101 Grove Street to obtain a copy of Ted’s Death Certificate. I went to the Vital Records window, where I was asked my name and relationship to Ted. “Friend and associate,” I identified myself as again. “I just want to look at the document, to see if the cause of death is on it.”
“I can’t do that sir.”
“Isn’t it public information?”
“Yes, but…”
“Actually I already know the cause of death, I got it from the medical examiner’s office.”
“Oh, well, then that’ll be $21 sir. This will take some time.”
I still wasn’t getting used to that.

There were two pages to the document. The first was the Certificate of Death. On this page, under Cause of Death, the spaces were blank, except to be marked Pending
But text in the Cause of Death section included the following, in tiny print that would require a magnifying glass to read for many: “Enter the chain of events …diseases, injuries, or complications…that directly caused death. Do Not enter terminal events such as cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, ventricular fibulation without showing the etiology.” Etiology being chain of events leading to death.
The second page to the document was titled “physician/coroner’s amendment.” This was dated 2-17-15. This date was, coincidentally or not, a week after I’d left a message with pathologist Ellen Moffatt requesting an update on Ted’s case, after calling since December 15.
As mentioned before, I had identified myself as a friend of Ted’s and a journalist. And I never got a callback.
Listed on the amendment page were the pending issues: the purported cause of death and the manner of death.
I saw that the cause of death for Ted was the same as I’d been told by the medical examiner’s office: hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. But there is no further explanation, no “chain of events that directly caused death.” Because of this missing information, the cause of Ted Gullicksen’s death remains unclear.
Also of note in the document: Another space was labeled “Time between Onset and Death.” In this space was typed “UNK,” presumably Unknown. In other words, the medical examiner was unable to determine time between the beginning of dying and death.
The time of death is listed as 12:41 on October 14 of last year.
The manner of death is noted as” Natural.”
In addition, a number of things are redacted (a/k/a blacked out) in this supposed public document, namely the signatures of the officials involved.

And one more thing, something no one had reported to me before.
Listed below cause of death was another line reading “Ethanol Present.”
This referred to space 112 on the first page, which states “Other Significant Conditions Contributing To Death But Not Resulting In The Underlying Cause Given.”
Ethanol is more commonly known as alcohol, booze, drink.
Why had no one mentioned this to me before?

So had the landlords and their millions of dollars in out of town No on G speculation ill gotten gains driven Ted to drink and death? It’s not as spectacular as a smoking gun, but it gets the job done.
I asked a mutual friend about Ted’s drinking habits. “He’d have a beer once in a while, but that’s about it,” he told me. “And with the election coming up, he was concentrating on staying focused on G, so I doubt he’d be having anything to drink.”
So where did the ethanol in Ted’s body come from? And again, why hadn’t I heard about it before?
Our mutual friend added, “I saw Ted riding his bike home from the Tenants Union the day before. It was just a matter of hours before he died.” Ted was reported to have died in his sleep that night.
Or had the high pressure stress the landlord s’ seemingly unlimited funds created by perverting G’s meaning from being about affordable housing to being about high taxes for everyone, as the polls showed Yes on G steadily losing ground—had that taken its toll on Ted and the Yes on G forces, while victory was literally being stolen away?
They call Ted’s death natural. But high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries are not natural, they are diseases brought about by societal repression and the perversion of our appetites.
And alcoholism, if indeed Ted was a drinker, is substance abuse, promoted by corporate pushers at the 1% level, who hold out no other hope.
Furthermore, where are our society’s examiners to perform the autopsy on last year’s Proposition G campaign, where landlord clogging of the lifeblood of democracy in SF with gobs of out of town ill gotten gains sought to kill the dreams of freedom for San Francisco tenants fighting simply just to stay in their homes and live with dignity?
And what kind of a world is it now, in this 21st century, where the landlords think they can still rule with feudal impunity and cavalier cruelty?
It was about changing all that, that Ted Gullicksen lived and gave his life.
There is one more thing to report from the $21 document. Under” Place of Final Disposition” it reads: “At Sea Off the Coast of San Francisco County, CA.”
There, I’m quite sure, Ted’s remains are commingling with those of our friend and comrade in Homes Not Jails and tenants rights work, Miguel Wooding. Miguel died in a similarly disturbing manner in July 2011.
Ted and Miguel, like so many others, will inspire us all for so long as we breathe.
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
re: Ted's DeathglamRtrampTuesday Jan 12th, 2016 7:34 PM
Odd ArticleBud MorWednesday Mar 18th, 2015 10:27 AM
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