Firefighter assault suspect pleads not guilty to running down victim

A man accused of intentionally running over a Cal Fire firefighter in San Francisco's Richmond District early Thanksgiving morning pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges Friday.

Eduardo Esquivel, 22, is accused of intentionally striking 29-year-old Albert Bartal near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Geary Boulevard around 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 24 after the two got into a fight at a Jack in the Box restaurant two blocks away.

Bartal, who remains hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, has worked for the past five years as a seasonal firefighter at Cal Fire's Saratoga Summit Fire Station and is also an Iraq war veteran.

Esquivel was arrested late Tuesday in South San Francisco after investigators released surveillance video and photos from the restaurant and a San Francisco police officer identified him from the footage.

The vehicle allegedly used to strike Bartal, a black 2001 Mazda CX-7, was also found Thursday afternoon in San Francisco's Hunters Point neighborhood, police said.

Esquivel made his initial appearance in court Friday and pleaded not guilty to first-degree attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and torture, San Francisco District Attorney's Office spokesman Omid Talai said.

Esquivel was ordered held on $5 million bail and will return to court on Jan. 11, Talai said.

Talai said Bartal has a 4-year-old child and “he takes care of his mother.”

Bartal's mother, Patricia Bartal, released a statement earlier this week saying her son is “a kind, thoughtful, hard-working man” who has a long road ahead in his recovery.

A relief fund has been set up for Bartal and his family. People may make donations to account No. 1379608 at the San Francisco Police Credit Union at 2550 Irving St., CA 94122.

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