Like a scene from a horror film, Cash App founder Bob Lee reportedly staggered through the streets of San Francisco after he was stabbed twice in the chest early Tuesday, pleading for help that arrived too late. The 43-year-old was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, leaving two children behind.
According to The San Francisco Standard—which obtained records and surveillance video from the surrounding area—Lee approached a white Camry after the stabbing and lifted his shirt, “as if to show the driver his wound and ask for help.” Instead, the car drove away, and Lee dropped to the ground. He continued walking before collapsing once more, the Standard said.
Evidently, Lee was still conscious after the attack. At 2:34 a.m. he called the police and shouted, “Help! Someone stabbed me,” the outlet said. When the cops showed up just six minutes later, the article said, the tech executive was already unconscious.
The attack sent a shudder through the tech industry, as Lee’s friends and family mourned the shocking loss.
Ajit Varma, Lee’s friend for nearly two decades, recalled him as “so smart and so caring,” adding that “he always put his friends first.”
According to Varma, Lee grew up in St. Louis with virtually no exposure to the world of cutting-edge technology. On his own, he started programming and developing open-source tech, and he was ultimately recruited to join Google.
“At the time, Google was trying to recruit at, like, MIT and Stanford, and Bob didn’t have those kind of credentials,” Varma told The Daily Beast. “But he was an amazing programmer. He was probably, like, maybe the smartest Java engineer that I ever met.”
Tommy Sowers, a tech company founder who worked with Lee and Cash App during his failed 2009 congressional bid, echoed those sentiments, saying Lee was an incredibly driven, talented programmer, despite being largely self-taught.
But unlike many in the industry, Sowers said, Lee also knew how to have a good time. Sower said he and Lee had even gone out in the same area where his friend was killed during one of their late-night adventures.
“It was just fun because we’d get to midnight and he’d be like, ‘Where are we going next?’” Sowers said. “And it wasn’t just to get drunk and take shots, he just really loved to be around people.”
He added that Lee was never violent or confrontational, and he couldn’t imagine him doing anything to provoke the deadly attack.
“It’s just excitement to get to the next place,” he said. “That is, I’m sure, the only emotion he had in that moment [before he was killed].”
Lee’s death immediately stoked debate about crime in San Francisco, with some critics accusing authorities of failing to keep the streets safe. (In 2019, the city had fewer homicides than in nearly six decades, though that figure has since trended up.)
In a statement on Wednesday, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said, “I want to assure everyone that our investigators are working tirelessly to make an arrest and bring justice to Mr. Lee and his loved ones, just as we try to do on every homicide that occurs in our city.” He declined to offer additional details about the stabbing, since the investigation is still in its “early stages,” but he urged anyone with knowledge of the incident to contact the department’s tip line.
Mayor London Breed added in a statement of her own that the city is “prioritizing public safety, including recently passing our budget supplemental so we have the police staffing necessary to have more police officers in our neighborhoods and to investigate violent crimes when they do occur.”
Sowers said he wanted to speak out to add more nuance and detail to the public narrative around his friend.
“I feel like this [story] is trending toward a trope: tech bro, partying…” he said. “But there’s a real human behind this.”