An alleged gang member accused of shooting another man to death while attempting to rob him of a fancy necklace outside a nightclub in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in 2008 will stand trial for murder, a judge ruled today.
Judge Wallace Douglass made the decision late this afternoon at the conclusion of a two-day preliminary hearing for 25-year-old Charles Heard, marked by an unusual incident Tuesday in which eight other alleged gang members were arrested for allegedly intimidating the prosecution’s key witness in the courtroom.
Prosecutors allege Heard shot 29-year-old Richard Barrett at about 1 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2008, outside the Fuse bar near Broadway and Kearny streets. Witnesses reported seeing two suspects in the killing, but only Heard has been arrested.
Prosecutors say Heard prized Barrett’s distinctive jeweled necklace, depicting the Flintstones baby character Bamm-Bamm.
The pendant was missing when police arrived on the scene of the shooting, but prosecutors now believe the robbers weren’t able to take the necklace away from Barrett, and then shot him and fled.
A bar patron reportedly confiscated the necklace after the shooting, and it was later returned to Barrett’s family.
Douglass today held Heard to answer on counts of murder, attempted robbery, firearms possession and participation in a criminal street gang. He is scheduled to return to San Francisco Superior Court to be arraigned on the charges on Oct. 22.
A San Francisco police gang task force officer testified this afternoon that he believed Heard is a member of the Central Divis Players, or CDP, a gang of about 20 people based in San Francisco’s Western Addition near Divisadero Street.
Officer David Do said the gang has taken part in numerous crimes, including drug sales, firearms possession, pimping, robbery and murder.
Heard, whose street name “Cheese” is tattooed on his forearm, according to Do, has a prior conviction for firearm possession, and was arrested in late July while reporting to his parole officer.
Do said he has had “hundreds” of contacts with Heard and other alleged CDP members since 2000.
On Tuesday afternoon, during the testimony of a woman who witnessed the attack and identified Heard as the shooter, Heard’s attorney Eric Safire motioned to several men in the courtroom to stand up and face her.
Prosecutors alleged that this was clear witness intimidation, and police arrested the eight men outside the courtroom. They were booked on witness intimidation and gang charges.
Earlier today in court, Safire sought assurances from prosecutor Michael Swart that he would not be arrested himself for witness intimidation, but Swart was not forthcoming, deferring to police for that decision.
Douglass also refused to intercede.
“I can’t guarantee you won’t be arrested,” he said.
Safire admitted he had “motioned” the men to stand up in court, but maintained he did nothing illegal, claiming he merely wanted the witness to see that there are other people who match her description of the shooter.
The witness had described the shooter as having gold-capped teeth, and the men who stood in court reportedly flashed their own gold-capped teeth at her.
“There was no intent, of course, to intimidate the witness,” Safire said.
The woman, who is not being identified out of concern for her safety, then resumed her testimony.
The woman said she saw two men approach Barrett from behind just before he was shot. She said she didn’t get a good look at the second man, but was “100-percent certain” Heard was the gunman, and remembered him as having a gold-capped tooth or teeth.
After Barrett was shot, she went over to the Fuse bar, where a bartender was performing CPR on Barrett, who was lying just inside the door, she said.
“I actually stood on the corner and started to pray,” the woman said.
“I didn’t know him, but I didn’t want him to die,” she said.
The woman then waited for police to arrive and pointed out one of the bullet casings to officers, she said. She later picked Heard out of a photo spread.
Safire declined to cross-examine the woman today.
“I don’t want to get arrested,” he told reporters. “If I’m going to be subject to arrest, I can’t cross-examine her.”
Police were not waiting for Safire at the conclusion of today’s hearing.