Nearly three years ago, the well-known documentary filmmaker Kevin Epps walked free from jail after allegedly telling police he shot and killed a man at his Glen Park home in self-defense.
Prosecutors decided against charging him with murder at the time, citing the need for further investigation into the October 2016 shooting of 45-year-old Marcus Polk.
But that changed this week when police arrested Epps, 51, on a warrant. On Wednesday, the “Straight Outta Hunters Point” director appeared in court for the first time on murder and firearms charges.
Epps stood alongside San Francisco’s newly appointed Public Defender Manohar Raju wearing an orange jail jumpsuit as his family watched from the gallery. His mother cried when she left the courtroom.
“Mr. Epps is someone who is a longstanding, vital member of the community,” Raju told reporters. “We’re really looking forward to getting more details, investigating the case and eventually freeing Mr. Epps.”
Raju described Epps as a “tremendous artist.” He said Epps serves on the board of the San Francisco Black Film Festival and is a member of both the NAACP and the Bay Area Black Journalists Association.
Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church, came to the Hall of Justice to support Epps and his family.
“They have every reason to be distraught,” Brown told reporters. “In the first instance he was exonerated and all this has come out of the clear blue. So we are waiting to find out what the facts are, but more importantly he deserves justice and fairness.”
Prosecutors have not detailed the allegations against him.
All that is known publically is that Epps allegedly shot Polk with a handgun at his house on the 100 block of Addison Street in Glen Park at around 1:34 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016. Polk died at the scene.
In the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney John Rowland said that at the house that day, Epps told police he shot Polk in self-defense.
Rowland said Epps was arrested Tuesday with more than $25,500 in cash on him while driving a 2006 Mercedes. Rowland called that a “red flag” and said Epps should not qualify for representation from the Public Defender’s Office, which is provided to low-income individuals.
In response, Raju pointed out that the Mercedes was 13 years old.
Rowland also argued against the office representing him because of an apparent conflict of interest. The office previously represented the victim, Polk, in a number of cases since 1992, Rowland said.
“Having represented the victim, how can they now represent someone who claimed the victim put his life in jeopardy?” Rowland said.
Raju said the office will look into whether there is a conflict.
Epps is being held in County Jail without bail.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christine Van Aken is set to decide Friday whether the Public Defender’s Office can represent Epps and whether he will continue to be held without bail.
Epps is facing felony charges of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, as well as a misdemeanor charge of having a firearm with its identification numbers removed. He is expected to enter a plea at the next hearing.
His first arrest and subsequent release shocked Mayor London Breed, then president of the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s unfortunate that if there’s insufficient evidence I don’t understand why he was taken into custody in the first place. He has a reputation, and I hope this doesn’t create any challenges for him,” Breed said at the time. “I just wish it was handled differently.”