Tuesday, September 30, 2014 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A nightclub security guard who armed himself for protection against a threatening patron has been cleared of gun charges after two juries failed to convict him, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge John K. Stewart on Friday dismissed two misdemeanor gun charges against Xavier Johnson after jurors announced the same day they were deadlocked 11-1 for acquittal. The case had been retried by prosecutors after the first jury hung in April. Johnson, who was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and possession of a loaded gun, faced up to a year in jail.
The dismissal ends a two year legal nightmare for the 24-year-old aspiring police officer with no criminal record, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths.
Johnson was arrested Aug. 4, 2012 after his first night of work as a security guard for the now-closed Shine, a lounge on Mission and Washburn streets.
Johnson was working the door when a silver Range Rover with 26-inch rims parked in front of the club. A man dressed head to toe in white stepped out, along with three companions. The man was joined on the sidewalk by an entourage of 20 people, some of them filming or taking photographs.
When Johnson asked the customer to remove his white hat in compliance with Shine’s dress code, the man demanded to speak to Johnson’s manager, who agreed to make an exception. The group filed into the club, but Johnson turned away one member of the entourage, a 17-year-old boy with no identification.
When the customer with the white hat learned of the situation, he came outside with three other men and unleashed a profane tirade at Johnson, again demanding to speak with the manager. Apparently mistaking Johnson’s back brace for a Kevlar vest, the man told Johnson, “I got guns that can get through that.”
Johnson testified that he attempted to diffuse the situation, asking the man to calm down and step to the side so the two could talk reasonably. The manager responded and approved the entrance of everyone in the entourage. On his way back inside, the man turned to Johnson and said, “I’ll wait for you after the club.”
Johnson, who grew up in Hunters Point and lost two brothers to unsolved murders, immediately became afraid, he testified, but continued to work due to assurances by staff members that the patron would forget his grievance.
At the end of the night, Johnson was told to wait by the club’s side door where the promoters would come out and pay him. Johnson spotted the Range Rover parked nearby. When he checked a second time, he saw the man in the white hat and three friends sitting inside the vehicle. Believing they were waiting for him, Johnson retrieved his lawfully-owned gun from a locked box in his friend’s trunk and concealed it under his shirt.
Eventually, the promoters emerged and paid Johnson. The Range Rover drove away, and Washburn began to chat with coworkers. Meanwhile, a man in an apartment above the lounge called 911, telling police a man was displaying and taking pictures with a gun. Police responded and arrested Johnson, who immediately told officers where to find his weapon.
The caller’s description of the weapon and Johnson’s clothing were inaccurate, and no witnesses or photographs supporting the 911 caller’s version of events were presented at trial. A police sergeant who investigated the case testified that he had seen the man in the white hat at a gas station earlier in the evening. The sergeant testified he recognized the man as a known pimp.
Johnson testified that calling the police was not an option because he believed it would put him and his family at risk of retaliation. The sergeant testified that it is not uncommon for people who live in crime-plagued neighborhoods to fear getting police involved.
Character witnesses testified that Johnson, who cares for his disabled stepfather, is honest, hardworking, and quick to help both friends and strangers.
“Jurors found Mr. Johnson extremely credible and several of them wished him well following the verdict,” Lutes-Koths said.
Adachi called prosecutors’ decision to retry the case a waste of taxpayer money.
“San Francisco spent close to $100,000 on two trials—all to prosecute a law-abiding citizen who was afraid for his life. Fortunately, the judge put an end to this pointless pursuit and Mr. Johnson can get on with his life,” Adachi said.