A former cab driver who struck and killed a pedestrian with his taxi in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood last August has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter but is nowhere to be found, the city’s district attorney said today.
Reza Eslaminia, 52, is wanted for the collision, which occurred at Eddy and Larkin streets on the evening of Aug. 11, 2012, and fatally wounded 38-year-old Edmund Capalla.
A warrant for Eslaminia’s arrest was issued on March 29, and District Attorney George Gascon held a news conference this morning to ask for the public’s help in finding him.
“He needs to be arrested and needs to be brought to justice,” Gascon said.
Prosecutors said Eslaminia was driving a Luxor Cab on Eddy Street and traveled through a red light at Larkin Street, where the taxi was struck by a bus. It spun around and hit Capalla, who was walking legally in the crosswalk.
Capalla had just left a celebration of his youngest daughter’s first birthday earlier that day and leaves behind two other children, including a daughter with Down syndrome, according to his father-in-law, Virgilio Talao, who also attended today’s news conference.
Talao and his wife were retired but have had to go back to work again “to fill in the shoes” of his son-in-law, he said. “The shoes are too big.”
Gascon said the case “has touched our office very, very deeply” and that prosecutors had initially sought felony charges against Eslaminia, but did not have adequate evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
To prove a felony charge, prosecutors would have to show Eslaminia acted with gross negligence and broke another traffic law other than running the red light.
Gascon said police did not draw blood from Eslaminia after the collision—a step prosecutors believe could have proven he was driving under the influence—and have not found videos or other evidence showing that he was speeding into the intersection.
Nevertheless, the district attorney called Eslaminia’s conduct “egregious” and said he “has shown a complete disregard for the life of others,” noting a 2008 arrest in Los Angeles County for DUI.
Eslaminia was also convicted of murder for the 1985 death of his father, a former employee of the Shah of Iran, although the conviction was later overturned in San Mateo County Superior Court in 2000.
Prosecutors had said Eslaminia and his friends were part of a group dubbed the “Billionaire Boys Club” that engaged in murder and get-rich schemes.
An attorney for Capalla’s family said the family has filed a civil lawsuit against Eslaminia and Luxor Cab in connection with the fatal collision.
Charles Rathbone, an assistant manager with the cab company, said Eslaminia never drove again for the company after the crash, and was terminated days later.
Rathbone said the company was not aware of Eslaminia’s background when he was hired and that he passed a clearance check by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which issued his taxi driver permit.
“It’s a tragic situation and our hearts go out to everyone affected by it,” he said. “We try to do a good job and it’s really discouraging when something like this happens.”
Anyone with information on Eslaminia’s whereabouts is asked to contact local law enforcement or call the San Francisco Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also send a tip by text message to TIP411 with “SFPD” in the message.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News