Public Defender Says Wrong Person Arrested in Homicide of 14 Year Old

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released video evidence to the public today that he said may prove the innocence of a 14-year-old boy who was arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing another teen in the city’s Mission District in September.

Adachi said his decision to release the video surveillance footage today was done out of desperation and with the hope that the homicide charges will be dropped against his client, a boy who has been in juvenile hall since his arrest the day after the Sept. 2 death of 14-year-old Rashawn Williams.

The name of the juvenile suspect currently in custody, as well as the identity and age of another suspect who is not in custody, have not been released, according to Adachi.

San Francisco police said Rashawn was stabbed at about 6:50 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Rubin’s Market at the intersection of 25th and Folsom streets.

Police said the homicide does not appear to be random but the department has not released any details about a possible motive.

Rashawn attended Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory school as a freshman. According to school officials, Rashawn was at the convenience store with a family member when he was stabbed.

Rashawn’s mother transported him to California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s Campus and paramedics transported him from there to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Rashawn entered the private Catholic high school with a 4.0 GPA from Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 school and was a member of the freshman football team, according to school officials.

Adachi said the video surveillance footage exonerates his client, the boy who has been in juvenile hall for more than three months, and shows that another male at the scene stabbed Rashawn.

Adachi said both the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office have had access to the surveillance footage and plenty of time to investigate, but nonetheless failed to drop the homicide charges against the juvenile.

According to Adachi, prosecutors asked the judge who is handling the case not to allow for the release of the footage to the public, but the judge agreed to its release today, stipulating only that names not be released and that faces in the video be blurred.

Deputy Public Defender Gregory Feldman said both his client and another male were hanging out near the BART station at 24th and Mission streets prior to the stabbing and were clearly captured on video surveillance cameras at the BART station and at a nearby McDonald’s.

Feldman explained that his client was wearing light-colored khakis, a short-sleeved black shirt with a white logo and a black beanie at the time of the stabbing, whereas the person who is allegedly captured on video stabbing Rashawn was wearing dark pants, a dark sweatshirt and a gray beanie.

The stabbing itself is captured from a video surveillance camera across the street from Rubin’s Market and appears to show the male with the sweatshirt stabbing Rashawn, Feldman said.

Adachi said he is mystified as to why the police investigation didn’t result in the arrest of the male wearing the dark sweatshirt rather than his client.

Regardless of why police didn’t arrest the male in the sweatshirt, Adachi said he hopes the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office will dismiss the charges filed against his client immediately.

Feldman and Adachi both said that just because their client was at the scene of the crime, that doesn’t mean he is guilty of first-degree murder.

“Physical evidence shows he didn’t do it,” Adachi said.

San Francisco District Attorney’s Office spokesman Alex Bastian said the case remains under investigation and that his office is still evaluating the evidence.

Bastian said no other suspects have been arrested in connection with Rashawn’s death.

The juvenile currently in custody has a hearing scheduled for January, which could determine whether he is tried in the case as an adult or a juvenile, according to Adachi.

Adachi said his client could face life imprisonment if the charges are not dropped.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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