A San Francisco jury convicted a man Wednesday of intentionally striking a Cal Fire firefighter with a car in San Francisco’s Richmond District in 2011 sending the victim into an almost four-year coma.
The defendant, Eduardo Chaparro-Esquivel, who was 22 at the time of the collision, was found guilty Wednesday of striking Albert Bartal, then 29, with a Mazda CX-7 early on Nov. 24, 2011 near Geary Boulevard and Ninth Avenue after an altercation at a Jack in the Box two blocks away just minutes before.
The jury convicted Chaparro-Esquivel of torture, mayhem, and assault with a deadly weapon with an enhancement for great bodily injury, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Bartal, who worked for five years prior to the incident as a seasonal firefighter for Cal Fire and is an Iraq war veteran, suffered life-threatening injuries in the collision and slipped into a coma, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
At the time of the collision, he had a 2-year-old daughter.
“We’re pleased that this violent man was held accountable, but this conviction is a stern reminder that resorting to violence is the quickest way to ruin lives,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. “This public servant and his family may never fully recover, and this defendant may spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Chaparro-Esquivel intentionally struck Bartal with the car as he was walking into a gas station parking lot.
Chaparro-Esquivel was going about 35 mph and hit the victim head on, causing him to be projected into the air and land head first on the curb, never regaining consciousness, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Chaparro-Esquivel was arrested five days after the collision at a home in South San Francisco and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges at his 2011 arraignment. He was held in jail on $5 million bail.
Video footage from surveillance cameras at the Jack in the Box, as well as a Shell gas station near where Bartal was struck, and a camera at a nearby mortuary that shows the vehicle striking him, make up some of the evidence in the case.
In 2011, the prosecutor said Esquivel was also caught on video saying, “I’m going to f— him up right now, I’m fitting to go f—— run him over.”
The suspect’s girlfriend, Alyssa Tejada, then 22 years old, was accused of trying to cover up the crime by allegedly keeping the Mazda, which was a rental car, from police and planning to have it repaired.
Tejada was arrested a couple weeks after the incident and pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to the crime after the fact. She was held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
The prosecutor said Tejada took numerous steps to cover up the crime and even ordered parts from a Mazda dealership on her credit card to repair the vehicle.
Instead of turning the car in to police, as they asked, Tejada apparently drove the suspect vehicle to the city’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood and left it there with the keys inside, perhaps “hoping someone else would take the car,” Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai said in 2011.
However, Tejada’s defense attorney at the time, Jai Gohel, notified police of the car’s whereabouts and picked it up.
Chaparro-Esquivel will be sentenced on May 6 at 9 a.m. in Department 29 at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News