San Francisco—Two men charged in connection with a 2014 fatal shooting at a Sixth Street hotel were acquitted today after evidence showed they acted to defend a front desk clerk under attack, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced.
Jurors deliberated six days before acquitting Darrius York, 36, of murder in the death of 18-year-old Daniel Beltran. York was also found not guilty of two counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm, and two counts of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was convicted of a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
York, who has no history of violence and had never shot a gun before the incident, sobbed with gratitude when the jury returned its verdict, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Matt Sotorosen.
York’s codefendant and childhood friend Joseph Young, 35, was acquitted of two counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm and two counts of assault likely to produce great bodily injury. Young was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to time served. He was represented by attorney Robert Waggener.
The July 22, 2014 confrontation began when Beltran and a 25-year-old friend came to the Henry Hotel at 5:15 a.m., reportedly to buy cocaine. The front desk clerk, a 57-year-old man with a limp and failing vision, told the pair they needed to pay a $10 entry fee and show identification.
The young men refused, claimed gang membership, and threatened to shoot him, the desk clerk testified. During the confrontation, the frightened desk clerk spotted York coming downstairs from his room. He rushed to York, who he had known for years, and told him the men were threatening to kill him and advised him to get a gun to protect him.
York and Young came downstairs together and a fistfight broke out in the lobby. York shot Beltran once in self-defense. The confrontation was caught on surveillance video.
“The evidence proved that the two younger men were the initial aggressors, and Mr. York was protecting himself and his companions in his place of residence,” Sotorosen said. “It was a split second, life altering decision he made because he felt lives were at risk.”
The jury applied the law, which is clear in cases of self-defense or defense of others, Sotorosen said.
“If you honestly and reasonably believe someone is going to kill you, you’re allowed to use lethal force,” he said.
Adachi said the verdict concludes a two-year legal nightmare for York.
“Darrius York was thrown into a life-or-death situation where he was asked to protect a vulnerable friend. He has been in jail ever since. Luckily, he had a public defender who was determined to fight for him and a jury who carefully considered all the evidence,” Adachi said.