A San Francisco man who says he was high and paranoid and was just firing "warning shots" has been sentenced to five years in federal prison stemming from a scary October 2020 incident in downtown SF.
On the night of October 2, 2020, around 10 p.m., 48-year-old Alvin Merrite fired a gun, seemingly at random, at three people near the intersection of Market and Montgomery streets. No one was injured, and Merrite's attorney says that he was high on drugs and paranoid that two random passersby were approaching him. Merrite apparently took a swing at one of them, then pulled out a gun and fired warning shots into the air, says assistant public defender Elisse LaRouche.
Surveillance footage also showed Merrite aiming his gun at a person as they cowered and ran away.
"He did not intend to shoot anyone, but fired warning shots," LaRouche said in a sentencing memo. "Knowing his actions were wrong and knowing he should go into custody, he yelled ‘Call the law(s)!’ multiple times, asking for law enforcement to arrive on scene. When they did, Mr. Merrite was ready to be taken in — he laid prone on the floor with the pistol five feet away from him."
U.S. Attorney Anne Hsieh said in her sentencing memo, "Unfortunately, the defendant has, by his own admission, engaged in ‘a life of crime’ since the age of 16 and was incarcerated in his first federal case by the time he was 18. He has spent the majority of his adult life either in prison, under correctional supervision (during which he was regularly unable to comply with his terms of supervision), or homeless and unable to stay out of trouble."
Merrite was not allowed to possess a gun following a gun conviction in Houston in 2013, and an earlier drug conviction in Alabama. It is not clear whether he had also spent any time in local jails prior to the October incident.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer issued a sentence that was 10 months shy of what prosecutors were seeking.