By Hannah Grayson
On Friday morning, a preliminary hearing began in a car burglary case under Judge Teresa Caffese. It was found that identification of both the suspect and the suspect’s car was not based on much evidence
The crime in question is a break-in and burglary of an Audi SUV in a Safeway parking lot last year. The manager of the Safeway saw two men that he described as black males wearing masks. One of the men was in the driver’s seat of an Audi hatchback while the other one was getting in. They then drove away.
After they drove away, the Audi SUV was found with broken windows. The owner claimed that a backpack with expensive headphones among other items were missing from the vehicle.
The first witness was a DNA analyst. She analyzed and interpreted DNA samples found on the bloody tissues that were in the suspect’s car. Much of her testimony was focused on the chain of custody in testing the samples. She had only analyzed the samples and other people at the lab had done the other steps before her.
The next witness called by the prosecution was Officer Glenn Juco who has served for the San Francisco Police Department for almost 20 years. On September 12, 2018, he collected evidence from the suspect’s Audi. He took pictures of the vehicle and collected the bloody tissue paper as evidence.
After Officer Juco, the next witness was Officer Gregory Skaug of the SFPD. He was the officer that arrested the defendant. He had heard that the defendant had been arrested by the Fremont Police Department in a Volkswagen. Officer Skaug arranged for the vehicle to be towed to San Francisco. In the vehicle, he recovered many items which included a camouflage hoodie.
From a crime alert issued by Sergeant Faye regarding the suspect driving away from the Safeway, Skaug recognized the same camouflage hoodie and assumed it to be the same man. He then asked the defendant on June 18 of this year to come retrieve his Volkswagen. Once the defendant arrived, Officer Skaug arrested him.
The next witness was the officer who responded to the incident. Sergeant Rodrigo Labson spoke with the manager and the victim of the burglary on the scene. He confirmed with the victim that the car was locked before he left.
As he was there, he heard on the radio that a vehicle matching the description of the Audi hatchback had been spotted in Daly City. Sergeant Labson did not personally recover any items from the car but saw shards of glass, bloody tissues, a backpack, and headphones through the window. The vehicle was then towed back to San Francisco.
Officer Martin Smith of the SFPD responded to the Safeway after the vehicle had been found. He met with the manager to show him photos of the vehicle and identify it as the same car he saw, as he could not leave the Safeway and go see it himself. The manager identified the vehicle in the pictures as the vehicle he saw, only by the first digit on the license plate and nothing else.
Another person recognized the vehicle based on the shape and color, but it was not clear to the officer who this person was and whether or not they witnessed the crime.
The next witness was Sergeant Scott Hom who works for the burglary unit. He was the officer who took an oral swab of the defendant for DNA testing.
Officer Skaug identified the defendant as the suspect only by the hoodie he was wearing. The manager at the Safeway could only identify the vehicle based on one single digit of the license plate, not by anything substantial. The defense is arguing that, based on this, the identification of the defendant is not strong enough.