San Francisco—A man who tried to disarm a drunken relative who was fumbling around with a rifle near a BART station was acquitted of felony gun charges, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors on Monday found 25-year-old Alberto Chan not guilty of carrying a loaded firearm. Chan, a married father of four with no criminal history, faced up to three years in prison if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Azita Ghafourpour.
On Oct. 29, 2015, Chan was with his intoxicated family member at the 16th and Mission BART plaza, when the drunken man unexpectedly dug into his backpack and began assembling something. When Chan realized it was a rifle, he became alarmed and tried to take it away.
A nearby commuter called 911, and a bicycle officer spotted Chan with his hands on the weapon. The officer arrested Chan, but only cited his companion for having an open can of beer. Police did not interview any of the numerous witnesses gathered at the BART station — not even the 911 caller who remained at the scene — nor did they collect fingerprints from the rifle, Ghafourpour said. Chan’s relative, who has a criminal history, was never questioned by police or called to the stand by prosecutors.
During the trial, the 911 caller testified that he remembered it was the taller of the two men who possessed and assembled the rifle, but police had not asked him to make an identification at the scene. Ghafourpour was able to introduce evidence at trial that Chan is the shorter of the two men.
Chan, a Mayan immigrant who also speaks some Spanish, explained on the stand that no bilingual officer was called to the scene. No officer tried to get his side of the story or question his relative, despite the fact that the drunken man tried to walk away from officers while Chan cooperated and got on the ground.
“Mr. Chan is a law-abiding father who works two jobs, six days a week to support his family,” Ghafourpour said. “Jurors found him to be very sincere. He was trying to do the right thing. He didn’t commit a crime.”
One of Chan’s bosses also took the stand, describing Chan’s reputation for honesty.
Adachi said the case demonstrates how a lack of investigation can lead to dire consequences.
“For the past year, an innocent man and his family feared he would be sent to prison,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, he had a public defender who empowered him to tell his side of the story and a jury that recognized the truth.”