gavel.jpgSix people made their initial appearance in San Francisco Superior Court this afternoon to face charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a German tourist in the city’s theater district last year.

A total of seven suspects were arrested Wednesday and an eighth is still being sought in connection with the death of Mechthild Schroer, 50, of Minden, Germany, on Aug. 8, 2010, in the 400 block of Mason Street near Union Square.

Schroer, who was visiting the U.S. with her husband Stefan, was apparently caught in the crossfire of a shootout between two groups of people outside a private party on that block, police said. The couple had been staying at a nearby hotel.

Two teens, a 15-year-old boy and a 19-year-old woman, were also hit by the gunfire but survived. None of the three victims were the intended targets, police said.

On Wednesday morning, police arrested five people in San Francisco and one each in Oakland and Fremont.

Phillip Stewart, 19, Marcus Blueford, 19, Delvon Scott, 20, and Willie Eason, 19, were charged with murder. Gethsamine Pita, 18, Raheem Jackson, 17, and another juvenile were charged with being an accessory to murder. Jackson is being charged as an adult, prosecutors said.

All seven suspects are also being charged with the commission of a crime in association with a criminal street gang. Police said Wednesday that all seven are not members of the same gang.

Six of the suspects made their initial appearance in San Francisco Superior Court this afternoon–the other boy will be charged through the juvenile court–but formal arraignment was delayed until May 16.

The defense attorney for Scott, Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, accused police of denying him access to legal counsel while interrogating him following his arrest Wednesday.

Young, who was already representing Scott in an unrelated robbery case, argued that denying him his constitutional right to an attorney potentially jeopardizes the prosecution of his case.

Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming denied Young’s allegation, and said outside of court, “we will try this case within the bounds of the Constitution like we always do.”

Some family members of the suspects also attended today’s hearing and insisted they were innocent.

Antoinette Strong, Blueford’s mother, said her son is being falsely accused because of where he often hangs out, near a public housing complex in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood.

Some of the suspects had been detained by police the night of the shooting after a taxi driver saw them fleeing the scene, but prosecutors declined to file charges against them at the time, saying there was not enough evidence to prove the case.

Strong said that Blueford was one of those suspects but that he was detained on a 38-Geary bus, while the other suspects were found in a car that was stopped by police.

Reginald Jackson, the father of Raheem, a student at Mission High School, said his son has also been falsely accused.

“He didn’t do nothing,” he said.

Reginald Jackson said his son called him while the shooting was happening and said, “Pops, they’re shooting at the party.”

Raheem Jackson was charged as an adult in the case today, and his arraignment is scheduled for either Friday or next Monday, but prosecutors said his hearing would likely also be continued to May 16 to coincide with those of the other suspects.

Scott and Eason are being held in lieu of $7 million bail, Stewart on $6 million bail, Blueford on $3 million bail, and Pita on $1 million bail. Jackson’s bail amount will be determined at his next hearing.

As for the eighth suspect in the case, police said he has not been found as of today but that they know who he is and are seeking him.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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