Speed Reads

'San Francisco loved Bob'

Cash App founder Bob Lee was murdered by an acquaintance, San Francisco police say

Well-known tech executive Bob Lee, found stabbed and bleeding on the streets of San Francisco's upscale Rincon Hill neighborhood early April 4, was murdered by a tech consultant he knew, San Francisco authorities said Thursday. Police arrested Nima Momeni, 38, in the East Bay community of Emeryville on Thursday morning, and he will be formally charged with Lee's murder on Friday, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said. Police did not speculate on a motive or elaborate on how the two men knew each other. 

Mission Local, the news outlet that first reported Momeni's arrest on Thursday, said police speculate that Lee and his alleged murderer had driven together through San Francisco in a car registered to Momeni, and that a confrontation spilled from the car and into the street.

Lee, 43, founded the popular mobile payment service Cash App while he was chief technology officer at Square, and he was chief product officer for the cryptocurrency firm MobileCoin when he was murdered. Before that he helped develop the Android operating system at Google. 

Friends described Lee as brilliant, kind, and generous with his time and startup capital. His murder was portrayed by some prominent tech figures as an emblem of a city awash in chaos and violent crime. Elon Musk, for example, tweeted in response to Lee's murder that violent crime in San Francisco is "horrific" and often goes unpunished. San Francisco officials pushed back Thursday.

"Mr. Lee was murdered by somebody that he knew," and "I must point out that reckless and irresponsible statements like those contained in Mr. Musk's tweet, that assumed incorrect circumstances about Mr. Lee's death, serve to mislead the world in their perceptions of San Francisco," Jenkins said at a news conference. "This has nothing to do with San Francisco," San Francisco police Chief William Scott agreed. "This has to do with human nature."

In fact, San Francisco has a relatively low violent crime rate — it has reported about 56 annual homicides in recent years, out of a population of 800,000 — though it does have a real (if sometimes exaggerated) property crime problem, visible homelessness, and public drug use. 

Lee should have found the efforts to "co-opt" his murder to smear San Francisco agonizing, his brother, Oliver Lee, told The New York Times. "Bob loved being in San Francisco, and San Francisco loved Bob."