Five months after a Chihuahua plummeted seven stories off a Union Square parking garage, the trial of an alleged auto burglar who may have thrown the dog over the ledge is underway in San Francisco Superior Court.
The animal abuse trial opened Wednesday in the killing of four-year-old Dunky, a black and tan canine whose bleeding body landed near the corner of Sutter and Stockton streets on Feb. 10. Wakeen “La La” Best, 34, allegedly assailed the dog after breaking into the car where Dunky was waiting for his owner.
The car break-in is among the tens of thousands reported in San Francisco each year. Police recorded more than 30,000 last year alone as serial auto burglars targeted rental cars and tourist areas like the Sutter-Stockton Garage where Dunky died.
Assistant District Attorney Asha Jameson on Thursday played several videos of the incident for jurors during the testimony of Erica Steele, a former security guard who was working at the garage on the day of the incident.
The footage included a clip of Dunky falling to the sidewalk and dashcam video from the car that captured audio of Dunky yelping helplessly as a car-alarm blared in the background. Though the dashcam footage did not show the attack, the assailant can be heard yelling,” Shut yo ass up!” until Dunky went quiet.
“You a bitch,” the person then snapped at the small dog.
As a security guard who regularly encountered Best while patrolling the garage and waking up homeless people sleeping in the stairways, Steele said she recognized the voice in the video as belonging to Best.
“I was pretty sure that was her,” Steele testified. “I’ve never heard nobody sound like that, that’s why it stuck to me.”
A second video played for the jury from the same dashboard camera then showed a person walk past the front of the car saying, “Oh my god, oh my god.” Steele also recognized the person as Best because of her black jacket, tights and purse.
“I remember that jacket and purse,” Steele said. “‘Cause that’s what she wears.”
Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, who is representing Best, disputed that the first video captured the voice of her client yelling at Dunky but agreed that the second video showed her client walking and saying, “Oh my god.”
“She comes on the scene after, sees the aftermath and then wants nothing to do with it which is why she’s walking away covering her face,” Pray told the San Francisco Examiner outside the courtroom.
Pray also does not believe that the dog was thrown off the ledge.
“I think the dog fell off the ledge,” Pray said, pointing to a photograph of a bloody paw print left on the ledge of the garage’s seventh-floor.
“I think the bloody paw print would have been very confusing if it was thrown because it would have had to have landed on one leg and bounced,” Pray said.
The ledge is low to the ground and there is a gap between it and the taller metal mesh above it. There was also blood found on the metal grating.
“I think the dog crawled under there, got stuck under the ledge, and I think perhaps a bloody part of the dog, like if he was trying to get back in and was confused, that might explain why there was blood on the grating,” Pray said.
Best had previously been arrested for breaking into a car at the same garage in 2016, according to Pray.
“Because she’s so known to security and they hear a familiar voice and then they see her, it’s completely reasonable why they thought it was her, but they’re wrong,” Pray said.
Inside the courtroom, Best sat next to her attorney in court wearing a gray sweater over a collared shirt, occasionally playing with her straight black hair.
Best is being held in County Jail without bail. Jail records show she is charged with felony second-degree burglary, vandalism and killing, maiming or abusing animals. She is also facing misdemeanor counts of drug possession, carrying a dirk or dagger, contempt of court and possession of burglary tools.
The trial is expected to continue until next week.