A security guard on the midnight watch at a housing project in the Bayview was Facetiming with his wife when a gunman shot him twice last Monday, according to new court records filed in the murder case.
Rolando Romero, 61, was fatally shot while speaking with his wife in the Philippines from a bench outside the Alice Griffith Housing Development at around 5 a.m.
The private security guard was about to finish his shift patrolling the development and construction in the area when Cardell Mason Coleman Jr., 24, allegedly pulled a revolver on him.
Coleman Jr. pleaded not guilty to murder on Tuesday during his arraignment in a packed courtroom at the Hall of Justice, where San Francisco Superior Court Judge Tracie Brown ordered him to be held without bail.
Coleman Jr. stood alongside his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, as his relatives and the family of the deceased looked on. Romero’s sister wept when Brown read the allegations.
“I’ve worked out there for almost 13 years,” Bayview Station Sgt. Tracy McCray told reporters after the arraignment. “This was one of the more heinous acts of violence against someone. It wasn’t expected. No pre-warning. Nothing. And all of a sudden he lost his life just doing his job.”
Outside the courtroom, Cardell Coleman Sr. said his son was staying with him at his Alice Griffith apartment near Fitzgerald Avenue and Arelious Walker Drive on the morning of the shooting. The first he heard of the incident was when officers with guns drawn chased his son into the building.
“It’s devastating to me as a parent, as a single father, and I raised him right,” Coleman Sr. said. “So for him to do that, he was not in his state of mind. I don’t know. I don’t know whether he did or not. All I know is the police came get him and I’m pretty sure when they came get him they had evidence or reason.”
Prosecutors have not yet offered a motive in the killing.
In court records, Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan said Coleman Jr. left the apartment that morning and propped open a locked door leading onto Fitzgerald Avenue, where Romero was seated on the bench.
Trevisan said Coleman Jr. then walked through a garage and shot Romero with a .38 caliber revolver, before running back inside through the open door. Coleman then allegedly discarded the revolver inside a backpack in the stairwell.
Trevisan said Coleman Jr. later admitted to the killing and discarding the weapon.
A surveillance camera recorded Coleman Jr. and the shooting, according to court records.
Coleman Sr. said police showed him a photo from a surveillance camera on the building and asked him to identify his son, which he did. He said the photo was of Coleman Jr. standing.
Police arrested Coleman Jr. at 12:48 a.m. last Tuesday. Prosecutors said Coleman Jr. has no previous convictions, though jail records show he has previously been arrested on suspicion of charges including misdemeanor grand theft in 2016 and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury in 2015.
Coleman Sr. said his son is unemployed and received government assistance.
“He was visiting me,” the father said. “I was in the process of getting him a place to stay or putting him on my lease.”
Romero’s family declined to speak with reporters.
A GoFundMe page apparently set up by his sister to cover expenses related to sending his body to the Philippines remembers Romero as a “great brother, husband, uncle, grandfather and a friend.”
“He doesn’t deserve this,” the page reads. “Irresponsible person who took his life away from his family and friends. I want to bring home my brother to his family after 23 yrs working here in the United States.”
The page had raised $13,469 as of Tuesday afternoon, including a $7,500 anonymous donation and $1,000 from the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
McCray, the police sergeant who also serves as sergeant at arms for the union, said the shooting is “just sad.”
“One life has ended, another life is affected,” McCray said. “A young man in the courtroom. His life is going to be dramatically changed by this. These are the types of acts of violence in the community that affect everyone from victim to perpetrator to police officer to community member.”