By Varun Noronha
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – At the beginning of a preliminary hearing in San Francisco County Superior Court last Friday, Deputy Public Defender Nuha Abusamra asserted the accused was targeted by police because of his race, arguing, “My client is an 18-year old Black male, this is an instance of racial profiling.”.
DPD Abusamra described an altercation that occurred on the day of the hearing when the DPD, her client, and her client’s family were walking toward the courthouse.
Abusamra charged a police officer approached her client and slammed him against a wall. The officer then realized that he had made a mistake and released the accused, admitting the youth “looked like someone” the SFPD was searching for—no one in the courtroom disputed DPD Abusamra’s account of the event.
DPD Abusamra charged the officer’s actions demonstrated racial profiling was a factor in the preliminary hearing matter. She suggested that racial bias motivated her client’s initial arrest and motioned to dismiss the case under the Racial Justice Act (AB 2542).
Judge Michael Rhoads denied the motion, stating the Racial Justice Act does not allow for oral motions to dismiss.
The preliminary hearing continued to determine if the case, which hinged on an arrest that occurred before the accused was harassed by an officer, would proceed to trial.
The accused is charged with one count of evading police pursuit, one count of possession of a firearm and two counts related to possession of a high-capacity magazine.
Assistant District Attorney Ross Garcia called a police witness to the stand for the prosecution.
The officer claimed he began following the accused’s car because it looked like a car involved in a robbery the day before.
No video footage showing the officer’s pursuit was entered into evidence. The officer stated such footage was not captured because his body camera fell to the floor of his vehicle when he moved to pursue the other vehicle.
According to the officer, when he turned on his police lights and siren, the accused continued driving. The accused, said the officer, speeded to an on-ramp and merged onto I-80.
By the time the accused reached the freeway, multiple police cars had joined the pursuit. When the accused encountered traffic on the freeway, his car collided with two other vehicles before crashing into a barrier on the side of the highway, the officer explained.
Multiple police cars parked behind the crash. Several officers exited their vehicles and moved toward the accused with their guns drawn, said the officer, adding as he approached the crashed car, the accused stepped out of the vehicle and quickly tossed a gun over the side of the highway to the city streets below. The accused then surrendered to the SFPD officers.
Another police officer found a gun and a separate high-capacity magazine below the freeway near the site of the crash.
However, Judge Rhoads ruled the prosecution did not convincingly connect the recovered high-capacity magazine to the gun the accused supposedly discarded.
The judge dismissed the two counts related to possession of a high capacity magazine and allowed the counts of evading police pursuit and possession of a firearm to proceed to trial.
Before the hearing concluded, Judge Rhoads ordered authorities to remove the ankle bracelet used to monitor the accused, ceding to an earlier request from DPD Abusamra. The judge encouraged the accused to avoid trouble until his trial.