Defense: Tenant support group workers charged with murder acted in self-defense

A college student was celebrating his last day as an intern for a tenants’ rights group with co-workers earlier this month when his boss allegedly stabbed a man to death in the Mid-Market area.

The student, Pascal Krummenacher, 21, and his supervisor Carlos Argueta, 31, a staff attorney with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, were both charged with the Sept. 3 killing of James Thomas in front of the Tu Lan Vietnamese restaurant on Sixth Street.

Attorneys for the accused said the men acted in self-defense.

Both defendants are expected to plead not guilty to murder alongside counts of second-degree robbery and receiving stolen property, attorneys said.

Argueta faces two additional counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Argueta was arrested at the scene of the stabbing without incident, defense attorneys said. They claim their clients were intoxicated and in a scuffle with four men over a backpack before Argueta allegedly stabbed Thomas, 61.

Prosecutors allege the defendants stole the backpack from one of the men, according to defense attorneys. The defense maintains Argueta and Krummenacher are victims of an assault, if not an attempted robbery.

Surveillance footage obtained by the San Francisco Examiner appears to show Krummenacher and Argueta, who is wearing a black messenger bag, walking on Sixth Street toward Market Street when four men confront them.

The video shows Argueta being pushed against a car. The four men then walk south on Sixth Street with Argueta holding his hands up alongside them. His bag is no longer on his back, but now appears to be in possession of the man later identified as Thomas.

When the men appear again on the surveillance footage, they are walking toward Market Street with the defendants following. This time, Krummenacher’s carrying a reddish bag in his hand.

While the defense says the bag is Argueta’s, they say prosecutors believe it’s a different bag and one stolen from one of the four men.

The situation stops in front of the Tu Lan restaurant, where Argueta is again surrounded and appears to be waving a knife.

The video then appears to show Argueta stick the older man with a knife. The man later identified as Thomas drips blood on the sidewalk, stumbles and falls over.

Argueta then either moves or is pushed inside the Tu Lan restaurant while some of the other men motion aggressively toward him, including a possible male bystander with a skateboard who has the board raised as a weapon.

The restaurant door was closed and, according to the defense, Argueta waited inside until police arrive.

“There’s no robbery,” Krummenacher’s attorney Lewis Romero said. “Pascal has no reason to steal a bag. He can buy a bag store if he wanted to.”

After the stabbing, a drunken Krummenacher hopped on a BART train, passed out and woke up at the end of the line, Romero said.

He later turned himself over to authorities. Krummenacher posted $1 million bail and is out of custody, attorneys said.

The District Attorney’s Office initially declined to press charges against Argueta, but he was charged Monday when prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence.

Roberto Evangelista, Argueta’s attorney with the Public Defender’s Office, said his client will turn himself in Wednesday. His arraignment is expected Friday, where bail could be set at $1 million, which Argueta will not likely be able to afford.

“We’re really saddened by what had happened Sept. 3,” said Paul Cohen, interim executive director for the Eviction Defense Collaborative. “We’re going to be cooperating with law enforcement to the best of our ability.”

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Video still appearing to show Carlos Argueta waving a knife within moments of allegedly stabbing James Thomas on Sixth and Market streets Sept. 3, 2015 (Courtesy photo).


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