Intentions of alleged killer are at issue in trial dealing with 2004 killing of officer
By Adam Martin
The confessed gang member who allegedly gunned down a San Francisco police officer in 2004 either opened fire on police intentionally rather than heed them, or fired in self-defense at what he thought were rival gang members.
Prosecution and defense lawyers gave their opening statements Monday in the murder case against David Hill, 23, accused of spraying Officers Isaac Espinoza and Barry Parker with bullets when the two tried to stop him in the Bayview district at 9:30 p.m. on April 10, 2004. Espinoza was killed in that melee, and Parker injured.
Last week, Hill pleaded guilty to a charge of being a member of a criminal street gang. He maintains his innocence on charges of murder, attempted murder and being a gang member in possession of a firearm.
Prosecutor Harry Dorfman said Monday that Hill, a member of the Westmob gang, was in the area of Newcomb Avenue and Newhall Street — rival gang territory — to carry out a revenge killing on 21-year-old Big Block member Ronnie Allen. Allen allegedly killed one of Hill’s fellow Westmob members two months earlier.
“The defendant was not lost when he was at Newcomb and Newhall,” Dorfman said. “He was there for revenge.”
But defense attorney Martin Sabelli stated that Hill was staying nearby at his girlfriend’s house, and had walked to the intersection to buy marijuana because that was the closest place that the drug could be obtained. Sabelli said that, because Hill was in rival gang territory, he took the AK-47 with him for protection.
Dorfman said Espinoza had called out, “Stop, police,” before Hill allegedly turned around and fired more than 10 rounds at him and Parker. Sabelli said neither officer had identified himself.
“It was him or the men in the car,” Sabelli said. He stated that Hill did not get a good look at Espinoza before opening fire, and that all he saw before pulling the trigger was Parker getting out of the car with his gun drawn.
The two officers were dressed in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car.
Much of the trial is expected to hinge on Parker’s testimony as the only eyewitness to the incident. He may take the stand as early as Tuesday.
Court attendees quiet as rap lyrics are read aloud
The family of slain San Francisco police Officer Isaac Espinoza sat in a San Francisco courtroom Monday and listened silently as prosecutor Harry Dorfman read aloud rap lyrics Hill had written that reveled in gun violence, especially toward police.
“I’m from the land of the mob stars/where young niggaz send shots from chop at cop carz/cause they want to see us dead/or, better yet, behind bars,” read a passage from the writing, which police recovered when they searched Hill’s room in his mother’s Richmond home on Easter Sunday 2004, when Hill was arrested. Chop refers to assault weapons, Dorfman said.
Espinoza was 29 years old, the father of a 3-year-old daughter when he died. His family, including his father and widow, appeared teary-eyed Monday, but did not react audibly to the claims in Hill’s writing that, “totin’ chopaz (carrying assault weapons) diggin’ graves is my thing, bitch.”
Defense attorney Martin Sabelli did not dispute that Hill had been involved in the Westmob gang, or even that he had carried the assault weapon allegedly used to gun down the first San Francisco cop killed in the line of duty in 10 years.
But Sabelli portrayed Hill as the product of a ruthless environment, where survival meant being tough. The rap lyrics, he said, were simply Hill “puffing,” or acting tough so as to repel trouble.
Hill, whose closest friend and two older brothers were involved with Westmob, was “born with a bull’s-eye on his back,” Sabelli said.
Espinoza’s family walked stony-faced from the courtroom following Monday’s statements. They declined to comment on the case.
San Francisco Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes, who sharply criticized the District Attorney’s Office when newly elected Kamala Harris refused to seek the death penalty for Hill, said, “We’re confident the DA’s going to make the case. We’re certainly looking forward to a conviction.”