San Francisco, CA — A man charged with beating a Castro merchant and ransacking his store was acquitted of all charges after surveillance footage revealed the shopkeeper attacked him with a metal pole from behind, then lied to police about key details of the incident, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jury members deliberated one day before acquitting Antonio Herico, 23, Monday afternoon. The San Francisco resident was charged with felony assault likely to cause great bodily injury and felony vandalism. He faced up to four years in state prison if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris.
The San Francisco City College student was arrested Feb. 13, 2011 immediately following the altercation at The Industrialists, a furnishing store on Market and Sanchez streets. Herico and his acquaintance, 23-year-old Pio Alexander Garcia, were returning from brunch at a restaurant that served bottomless mimosas. Herico, who had never before tasted the champagne cocktail, drank too much, too quickly. As a result, he vomited in front of the high-end shop, directly beneath a sign in its window promising, “TAKE A DUMP HERE YOU WILL LIVE BUT LIVE TO REGRET IT.”
The store’s owner, 53-year-old Anthony Limitiaco, rushed out, yelling profanities at the men. While Herico continued to vomit, Garcia and Limitiaco engaged in a loud argument, with Garcia hurling anti-gay slurs at the merchant.
Surveillance video presented by Harris at the three day trial showed Limitiaco then retrieved a metal pole from his store and came out swinging at the men as they walked away. Herico was struck on the side of the head, leaving him with a lemon sized hematoma that was later treated by paramedics.
Garcia and Limitiaco then engaged in a fist fight, shattering glassware and other valuable items as they tussled inside the store. Footage showed the injured Herico trying to stop the fight, yelling, “Enough! Stop!” When he failed to get the men’s attention, Herico pushed over a display case. When that had no effect, he twice attempted to physically separate the pair.
Police arrived and arrested both Herico and Garcia for assault and battery, malicious mischief, vandalism and a hate crime. The hate crime and malicious mischief charges against Herico were later thrown out.
Both Herico and Limitiaco took the stand during Herico’s trial, as well as one independent witness, Harris said. Jurors also heard the recording of Limitiaco falsely telling a 911 dispatcher that the men were armed with a gun.
But the most important witness proved to be Limitiaco’s own surveillance footage.
“The merchant told police he armed himself with the steel pole because the men were threatening him. But the video clearly showed the men walking away when the merchant ran after them with the weapon,” Harris said. “Later, Mr. Herico could be seen repeatedly trying to stop the fight despite his own injuries.”
Adachi praised jurors for carefully weighing the evidence, noting that things aren’t always what they appear.
“The surveillance video proved that Mr. Herico did not assault the shopkeeper. To the contrary, Mr. Herico was trying to be a peacemaker,” Adachi said. “The jury was able to see the truth with their own eyes, and acquitted Mr. Herico of all charges.”