Police and prosecutors went after the wrong person for the killing of 14-year-old Rashawn Williams, and there is video to prove it, Public Defender Jeff Adachi charged Monday.
The 14-year-old arrested and charged for the stabbing death of Williams, who was killed in front of a Mission corner store on Sept. 2, is not a murderer, contends the Public Defender's Office.
“He did not commit the stabbing,” Adachi said of his office's unnamed 14-year-old client. The teenager, who was a former classmate of Williams at Horace Mann Middle School, was arrested the day after the incident.
Video of the stabbing, which the District Attorney's Office and San Francisco police have had for months, was released by Adachi's office Monday in an effort to get the charges dropped against their client, who remains in juvenile detention and may face being charged as an adult.
“We are asking that the case be dismissed,” Adachi said.
The District Attorney's Office, which objected to the release of the video, did not directly charge the defendant as an adult, which it could have done. Instead it asked for the court to review whether or not he should be tried as an adult.
The case remains under a protective order, preventing Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian from saying much, but he did say his office's investigation continues and they are still in the “process of determining [the defendant's] level of culpability.”
Part of that process — getting enhanced video images of the incident — is incomplete, said Bastian who noted that the DA's Office hopes to get the enhanced video back before the case's next hearing in January.
The Police Department did not return calls for comment.
The grainy video, captured by a public-housing surveillance camera across the street from the crime scene at the intersection of Folsom and 26th streets, reveals in living color the details of the events surrounding Williams' death.
It begins with the defendant and what looks like another juvenile male walking in front of Rubin's Market. Once around the corner, another juvenile male, identified as Williams, exits the store and the three seem to stop to communicate. Then — and this is the key moment according to the Public Defender's Office — the unknown juvenile standing beside the 14-year-old defendant appears to reach out and stab Williams, who then stumbles and then runs away.
The video shows at least four witnesses standing on the corner during the stabbing.
The Public Defender's Office also released still frames of surveillance video captured about 10 minutes before the stabbing blocks away
from the scene, showing their client with the same person who appears to stab Williams.
Adachi would not say who the apparent assailant is, but he did say “that individual is known to the police.”
Still, he wondered aloud why police went after his client instead of the person who appears to be the stabber.
“Why they didn't investigate it is beyond us,” he added.
Adachi's office did not release the video until now because it wanted to complete its investigation and wanted to give the DA and the Police Department a chance to “do the right thing.”
But when it appeared the DA's Office was pressing ahead with charges against its client, “We had no other choice,” he said Monday.NOTE: This video contains graphic footage.