Suspect’s girlfriend charged as accessory to hit-run attack on firefighter

The girlfriend of the suspect accused of running down and critically injuring a state firefighter two weeks ago denied in court Wednesday that she helped him try to beat the rap.

Prosecutors say that after an early morning fight between Albert Bartal and 22-year-old Eduardo Shaparo Esquivel at a Richmond district Jack in the Box, Esquivel plowed a rented SUV into Bartal at a nearby gas station and took off. Police tracked down the South San Francisco resident five days later and arrested him.

Bartal, a 29-year-old Cal Fire firefighter and father of a 4-year-old child, remains at the hospital in critical condition, prosecutor Omid Talai said.

Esquivel’s 22-year-old girlfriend, Alyssa Tejada, who was arrested Monday, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a felony count of being an accessory after the fact to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and torture.

Tejada told her crying family in court, “It’s okay,” before being led back to her jail cell.

The Vallejo woman is accused of delaying the investigation, including ordering parts to fix the damaged SUV, according to her attorney, Jai Gohel. Gohel said Tejada had a change of heart and decided to turn over the vehicle to police.

“In the end, evidence was not tampered with, she turned it over, so that it would not impede the investigation,” Gohel said.

Talai disputes that account, saying it was actually police who contacted Tejada first.

“But for the work of the SFPD criminal investigation unit, we wouldn’t have the evidence we are using to charge Ms. Tejada,” Talai said.

The SUV was recovered in the Bayview district last Thursday.

A judge Wednesday ordered Tejada held on $200,000 bail, but Gohel will argue for a bail reduction next week. Her charge carries a maximum three-year sentence, Gohel said.

Gohel would not comment on whether Tejada was with Esquivel the night of the incident. He said his client, a clerical hospital worker, has no prior criminal history.

“She’s a good kid, has a job, never been in trouble before, and didn’t know what to do,” Gohel said.

Esquivel — who has already pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and torture — is being held on $5 million bail.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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