San Francisco—The jury hung 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal in a case involving a man who defended himself against a group of assailants on Valentine’s Day 2016, Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Richard Contreras, 30, was charged with two homicides, an attempted homicide, carjacking and assault after he fired at men in a group at the Twin Peaks lookout. He acted in fear for his life, the jury learned.
Mr. Contreras testified that he had been assaulted several days earlier and was nearly killed; as a result, he began carrying a gun. He said that on that evening, he was on a date overlooking the view when he shouted out, “I’m alive, San Francisco!” According to him, the group of men heard him yell and began to yell back and taunt and intimidate him. He said that he saw a gun and heard shots, so he pulled out his gun and fired back, hitting two of the assailants and wounding a third. The men were gang members and Mr. Contreras has never been in a gang, he said. He scrambled to get away, and in order to do so, he stole a car and drove off. For this he was convicted of
carjacking, but not assault.
Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway said this was a case of self-defense, but she wasn’t sure how it would end. “This is an outcome that I was not convinced I could hope for,” she said. “But after talking to the jury, I’m very grateful that they found the courage to do the right thing. They understood that my client was outnumbered and about to be jumped by gang members, and he did what he felt he had to do.”
The District Attorney will most likely decide whether or not to retry the case next week.
“In taking the stand himself, Mr. Contreras explained what happened that terrible night and subjected himself to cross-examination,” said Adachi. “He also showed great remorse. I’m sure if he could turn back time, he never would have driven to Twin Peaks that night. Thankfully, much of the jury weighed all the details and evidence and voted with their conscience.”