Prosecutors say a hit-and-run in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood occurred after the driver unsuccessfully tried to buy marijuana and argued with people on the street. (Courtesy Bryce Bishari)

Haight Ashbury hit-and-run suspect to be released pending trial on attempted murder

Driver, 18, allegedly pinned victims against wall after failed attempt to buy weed

An 18-year-old driver who allegedly pinned two people against a wall with his car in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood will be released from jail while awaiting trial on attempted murder, a judge ordered this week.

Prosecutors say Stanislaus County resident Case Estorco drove onto the sidewalk at Haight and Ashbury streets after unsuccessfully trying to buy weed with his girlfriend on the night of Feb. 24.

He had exchanged words with people on the street before driving off and returning to the scene to strike the victims, Assistant District Attorney Pamela Hansen alleged in a motion seeking to detain Estorco without bail.

“The defendant was angry and drove onto a sidewalk, using a deadly weapon to run over people and property, as he drove almost the length of the block,” Hansen wrote in the Feb. 26 motion.

Hansen argued that Estorco would be a threat to public safety if released, citing an open felony gun case out of Modesto from last September and alleging that his “dangerous behavior” was escalating.

One of the victims he allegedly pinned against the wall suffered injuries including a fractured skull and broken ribs, she said.

But a San Francisco Superior Court judge denied the motion Wednesday and granted Estorco’s release under various conditions including GPS monitoring, according to attorneys.

“The judge agreed to place Case, who is only 18 years old, on home arrest with electronic monitoring so that he can live under the supervision of his family in the East Bay as the case moves forward,” said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Max Breecker.

Estorco was not taken into custody at the scene of the collision.

He allegedly fled and was arrested later that night when police spotted him and his girlfriend in a car near Twin Peaks that matched the description of the vehicle from the hit and run.

Police were responding to a report of shots fired near 90 Crown Terrace from a caller who told dispatch they heard three gunshots coming from the vehicle, prosecutors said.

The vehicle, which appeared to have front-end damage, accelerated toward police when officers arrived at the scene and collided with the police cruiser when both vehicles swerved in the same direction.

A witness told authorities, “the white car appeared as if it was going to drive around the police car but changed its mind and drove into the police car,” according to the motion from Hansen.

Police arrested Estorco after he allegedly climbed into the backseat and exited the car with a black bag. Police have said there was no merit to the report of shots fired, and there is no mention in the motion of Estorco allegedly having a gun.

Estorco later denied being in Haight Ashbury that night, but his girlfriend “acknowledged they were in that area, had some issues with people on the sidewalk, and that the defendant drove on the sidewalk,” Hansen wrote in the motion.

Police found an open liquor bottle in the car and prosecutors say Estorco was acting “out of it” when arrested. “It is not clear if the defendant was impaired by mental health issues or the use of alcohol and/or narcotics,” according to Hansen.

The girlfriend was not arrested.

Estorco is facing various charges including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery and hit-and-run driving causing injury.

Records showed he had yet to be released from County Jail as of Friday afternoon.

The case is due back in court March 20 at 9 a.m.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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