A San Francisco man charged with murder for allegedly stabbing a high school student to death during a fight near the edge of the Excelsior District was an “innocent victim” in the attack, a defense attorney said Tuesday.
Prosecutors have accused Sergio Rocha, a 38-year-old construction worker, of plunging a knife into the neck of Josue Mejia-Sanchez, 16, as the “unsuspecting” teenager filmed a fistfight with his phone at Mission Street and Geneva Avenue on the night of Dec. 1.
But Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Camacho said in an email that Rocha himself suffered severe injuries in the attack and is still in the intensive care unit of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
“Mr. Rocha has the full support of his family, his friends and the community,” Camacho said. “We look forward to showing that Mr. Rocha is an innocent victim who suffered a serious attack on his life by a number of unidentified assailants.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart described the attack in a Dec. 6 motion to detain Rocha without bail. The melee was recorded on survelliance video.
Swart said the encounter started when Rocha and his friend, a 48-year-old man, were walking to a pool hall. At least two “younger male individuals” confronted, harassed and attacked his friend.
The friend then pursued the aggressors and a fight broke out between him and the one of the younger males, resulting in them rolling around on the ground while punching each other, according to Swart.
A crowd of onlookers including Rocha and Mejia-Sanchez soon formed around them, with Mejia-Sanchez recording the fight on his phone.
“Suddenly, [Rocha] pushed one of the other individuals back and then plunges his knife into the unsuspecting 16-year-old’s neck, killing him instantly,” Swart said in court records.
Swart said Rocha then tried to swing his knife at someone else, but was stabbed in the chest and knocked to the ground when a person threw a beer bottle at his head.
At that point, his friend picked him up and the two men walked to a restaurant where emergency personnel were called and he was taken to the hospital.
Police said others at the scene drove Mejia-Sanchez to ZSFGH, but he died.
“Mr. Rocha stayed on the scene of his attack, awaiting police and medical care,” Camacho said, arguing for Rocha’s innocence. “By contrast, the still-unknown assailants fled the scene in a car along with the now tragically-deceased person.”
After surgery at the hospital, Rocha initially denied having a knife in his hand but later admitted to having a knife and told police “he had no intention of hurting anyone,” according to Swart.
Rocha is being held without bail on felony charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated mayhem.
He is expected to plead not guilty to all charges next Wednesday, Camacho said.
Mejia-Sanchez was a student at International High School, a school for recent immigrants.
In a letter read to students dated Dec. 3, Principal Tara Hobson informed the campus about his death.
“Death can be difficult for us to understand, especially when it is sudden,” Hobson wrote. “We may experience many different feelings, such as shock, sadness, and confusion. I want you to know that we, the SF International staff and community care about you and your feelings and that all feelings are normal.”
A GoFundMe page has raised nearly $3,000 to cover Mejia-Sanchez’s funeral expenses.
He was scheduled to be buried Monday in Hayward. His family declined to comment through a representative on the GoFundMe page.