By Ella Wade
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A preliminary hearing was held here Tuesday in San Francisco County Superior Court for Kevin Tran, who is accused of assaulting a man in his 80s who was birdwatching with his wife near the previous home of the San Francisco Giants, Candlestick Park.
The victim painted a detailed picture of a young man punching him, and his holding the attacker until police came.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Mahone called two witnesses to the stand within the first two hours of what was estimated to be a four-hour preliminary hearing.
But before the preliminary hearing began, Deputy Public Defender Kelsey Ryburn had walked into the courtroom and met with the family of the defendant. Ryburn’s conversation with Tran’s mother, sister, and father consisted primarily of Ryburn calming their nerves as best she could.
The preliminary hearing began with the testimony of the victim, AP, on the stand. AP is an elderly white man, in his early 80s. He appeared in the courtroom wearing glasses and a hearing aid.
On June 11, AP said he was walking with his wife FP by the previous location of Candlestick Park on the southern edge of San Francisco. FP enjoys birdwatching, he explained, and so the couple goes for photo-oriented walks together quite often.
AP and FP had driven to the shore of the bay to start their walk. They had finished birdwatching and were strolling back to their car along a paved promenade at around 8 p.m. Their car was parked on the road that leads to what AP described as “housing projects.”
According to AP’s testimony, they saw two young men walking toward them, one with a skateboard. FP recalled one man walking toward them, while a teenager with a skateboard sat a little ways away. She also later testified that she wasn’t looking down the promenade. Instead, she kept her eyes focused on the water and the shore for birds.
The couple noticed the man walking toward them and moved to the left to offer him room to pass. The man allegedly began walking on a diagonal path directly toward the couple. AP noted in his testimony that “he kept walking straight towards me.”
When the couple reached the young man he brushed into FP, causing her to lose her balance for a few moments. She testified that this brush seemed accidental, but noted she was worried that she could have fallen onto rocks to the side of the promenade.
The young man walked straight up to AP, announced in a “matter of fact” tone, “I’m going to kill you.” The attacker then began punching AP repeatedly in the right eye.
When AP was asked if he saw the alleged attacker in the room he said that while he “would assume it’s the gentleman in the orange,” who fits the description he remembers, AP remarked that he couldn’t see the attacker’s face the night of the incident, and therefore couldn’t answer the question.
FP also gave a similar answer at first, stating that she identified the attacker as being “heavy-set” and of “Asian descent,” but after further questioning, she identified Tran.
AP never punched his attacker, but instead grabbed him. AP recalled pinning the attacker and “watching my blood splash on his head. After the attacker was on the ground with their arm pinned to their side, AP got up. When everyone got up, the attacker immediately resumed punching AP.
This process was repeated. AP “immobilized the hitting again,” holding the attacker from behind with one arm pinning the attacker’s arm to the side, and the other reaching over the shoulder. AP’s hands were clasped together over the front of the attacker’s abdomen.
AP held the attacker from behind in what the defense described as a “bear-hug” maneuver. All three people ended up on a lawn that emerges at the top of a wall away from the promenade. The wall stands at about “seat-height,” and AP tripped all three people over the wall to stop the punching.
AP recalled yelling to FP, “Kick him in the balls, kick him in the balls.” To which she replied, “I’m trying.” After AP and the attacker were on the lawn, FP at one point sat on the attacker and called 911. FP had called to the young man with the skateboard for help and he allegedly “reluctantly came over, but didn’t really help.”
AP recalled the events that transpired while he was holding the attacker and waiting for the police. AP said, “I held him and held him and held him until I wasn’t sure I could keep holding him, but I kept holding him for 10 to 15 minutes until the police came.” FP mentioned to AP after the incident that the attacker was trying to pinch her.
AP recalled saying that, while he was waiting for the police, the “attacker said, ‘You’re choking me.’ I knew I wasn’t choking him because I wasn’t holding him in that kind of hold… [The] onlooker said, ‘you’re choking him’ because the attacker had said ‘you’re choking me.’”
When the police arrived AP was taken to hospital after being questioned. His right eye was swollen shut for 36-48 hours after the incident. The prosecution submitted multiple pieces of photographic evidence. The photos showed AP’s swollen eye and the many scabs on his face. His glasses had been pushed into his face by the punches and he had sustained large cuts above and below his right eye.
AP originally believed that he had sustained six to eight punches, but testified today that it was between “six and 10 to 12.” FP testified that the punches “seemed endless.” AP testified that the punches were “a deliberate effort to inflict damage.”
Toward the end of AP’s testimony, he requested to make a statement.
In this statement, he said, “I realized later, I had no animosity towards the attacker. I realized I only wanted to stop him from hitting me… I was in shock. I clearly remember, after [getting] three punches, thinking, I’m being punched in the head. Just the disbelief… I realized that if I didn’t stop him from hitting me, he would keep hitting me… [In those moments] you don’t think ahead, you just want to stop it.”
The preliminary hearing was set to reconvene another day.