The same day that a story emerged this week about the suspect in two homicides last week, in which the District Attorney's Office decided to delay filing charges against him in a shooting case last month and let him out of jail, DA Chesa Boudin tried to make it clear to the Police Commission that blame should be focused on the police and lengthy delays in forensic evidence testing.
The blame game continues as the SFPD continues to hunt for 32-year-old murder suspect Robert Newt. Newt had been linked to an April 4 shooting in which dozens of shell casings were collected, and he was arrested on April 21 and was allegedly in possession of a semi-automatic "ghost gun" that matched the caliber of those casings. He was also driving a vehicle that had been linked to the shooting incident, and he faced charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing an assault weapon.
But the District Attorney's office sent the case back to police saying they needed DNA or fingerprint evidence to make charges stick against Newt — something that the SFPD denies.
"We would not have presented the case to SFDA if we did not believe there was sufficient evidence to charge and prosecute this case," says SFPD Lt. Derrick Lew in an interview with the Chronicle. He added that DNA or other forensic evidence would have been a "great bonus," but they thought there was enough to keep Newt behind bars.
Instead, Newt was released, and just weeks later, he is suspected of killing 61-year-old Darryl Haynes and 54-year-old Randy Armstrong. Both men were fatally shot within hours of each other in Potrero Hill on Saturday, and another man was seriously injured. On Tuesday night, the SFPD took the rare step of releasing Newt's mugshot and appealing to the public for help in locating him. He remains at large, and is considered armed and dangerous.
Per the Chronicle, Boudin told the commission on Wednesday that there were several details in the April 4 shooting case that could have been exploited by defense attorneys to get Newt exonerated. For one, witnesses described the shooter as Samoan, which does not fit Newt's description. And, allegedly, multiple people had access to the vehicle that Newt was arrested in, which meant they needed further evidence to link him specifically to the "ghost gun" they found in the car.
In trying to deflect some of the blame in this case in a moment when there are dual signature drives to attempt to recall him, Boudin went further in his criticism of the police department. He told the commission that his office is waiting on fingerprint or DNA evidence in 100 cases that they say they can't prosecute until they receive it.
SFPD Chief Bill Scott tells the Chronicle that this was the first he was hearing of such delays, and that the department had no backlog in DNA evidence testing. He said the usual turnaround for that is two or three weeks.
Suspects can not be held more than 48 hours without charges, therefore Newt was released around April 23.
Anyone with information about Newt's whereabouts is asked to contact the SFPD immediately by calling 911 or the tip line. People wishing to remain anonymous may call 415-575-4444 or they can text a tip to TIP411, beginning the text message with SFPD.
San Francisco Police Are Seeking Public Assistance in Locating Homicide Suspect. If you see this individual do not approach him. Note his location, clothing, and any vehicle description and immediately call 9-1-1.— San Francisco Police (@SFPD) May 19, 2021
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