There are wanted posters all over the Castro, the heart of San Francisco's gay community. The television news has talked of little else. One man has already encountered the assailant and considers himself lucky to be alive.
The fear rippling through the city is that a gay serial killer is on the loose. According to the police and the FBI, he is a clean-cut 19-year-old called Adam Ezerski who is already wanted for the killings of two gay men in Florida.
Earlier this week, a 43-year-old man, whose identity has been withheld, believes he met Ezerski in a gay bar in the rough Tenderloin district and had a two-night tryst with him before being attacked. According to the police, Ezerski smashed a statue against his head while he was asleep in bed and tried to strangle him.
Now the whole city is on high alert, with flyers and posters on just about every doorway in the Castro and other gay neighbourhoods.
"It's like Cunanan all over again," one Castro resident, David Dalrymple, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Andrew Cunanan, suspected of killing five gay men including the fashion designer Gianni Versace, became the object of a nationwide manhunt in 1997 and was found shot to death in a houseboat in Florida. He was also described as clean-cut.
Ezerski's alleged killing spree began last month, when a 76-year-old man was found bludgeoned to death in his beachside residence near Miami. The next day, Ezerski checked into a hotel in Fort Lauderdale with a man called Anthony Martilotto. Mr Martilotto was found strangled in his room in the morning.
According to the FBI, Ezerski then drove Martilotto's rented red Mustang cross-country. The car's number plate showed up on the records of a car park near the home of the Tenderloin man assaulted this week.
San Francisco police say Ezerski's fingerprint was also found on a video in the man's apartment. After fighting off his attacker, the man went to hospital where he needed six stitches in his head. He told a local television station he later got a phone called from "Adam" apologising for the attack.
Ezerski is still believed to be driving the red sports car. Sightings over the past week have been recorded both in San Francisco and further south in California.Reuse content