In San Francisco, the murderer of Stephen Guillermo may be set free: #JusticeforStephen
Let’s not bury the lead. I already have to bury the dead.
Stephen Guillermo, 26, my first cousin, once removed, was shot and murdered in his apartment building early Saturday morning after a night on the town with friends in San Francisco.
There’s no crime being drunk if you’re responsible enough to not drive, and sober enough to text home.
But he made a fatal error that night.
Stephen lived on the fifth floor. He got off on the third. When he couldn’t get into the identical apartment on the different floor, a resident tenant, a 68-year-old retired security guard, shot him.
The San Francisco Police are still trying to get all the facts. But the only witness that remains is the shooter, Amisi Kachepa, who turned himself in and remains under arrest for suspicion of murder.
But maybe not for long.
There is enough reason to charge Mr.Kachepa for murder now.
But because of California’s version of “Stand Your Ground,” the killer may be set free to return to his apartment.
Today, on a day the San Francisco Board of Supervisors commemorates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it is a coincidence that I have been given a few minutes to talk.
I will be expressing my concern that my cousin’s killer is about to be set free.
Here is a text version of what I will say at the meeting today:
Mr. President and Members of the Board of Supervisors, thank you for this opportunity to speak.
I am Emil Guillermo, native San Franciscan, proud Lowell High graduate, who has lived in every supervisorial district at one time in my life.
I’m a journalist who blogs for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
My father Willie Guillermo was a piece of Asian American history in San Francisco, one of the first to come to America from the Philippines in the 1920s. He lived in the city and endured the racism of the times as a young man in his twenties. He lived in Tenderloin, the South of Market, and the Fillmore (before it was known as Lower Pacific Heights). It was not the time of the high-tech boom, but the low-tech reality. He lived when it was illegal for Filipinos to marry whites, own property, become citizens. They were often called epithets…like monkey. It was the era of “Little Brown Brother.”
So it is ironic today to speak in these chambers about his grand nephew, Stephen Guillermo , my first cousin once removed, who was shot and murdered in his apartment building he called home early this past Saturday, May 3, 2014.
I am here with family members and friends to urge the supervisors to support justice for Stephen Guillermo.
I met Stephen when he was 8, a legal immigrant from the Philippines. Now 26, he was to graduate this June from SF State, after working two jobs and being forced into the role as family head when his father died from health issues several years ago. He took care of his younger brother, sister, and his mother, and they all lived in a small Mission Street apartment.
Stephen Guillermo is now dead.
But his self-professed killer, the gunman, Mr. Amisi Kachepa, who turned himself in and is now held under arrest, may soon be free.
If that happens, it would be a travesty of justice.
I want SFPD and the DA simply to do their jobs. Gather the facts and make the case against the murderer.
The DA has enough to charge Mr. Kachepa for murder. Now.
This is the case that the City and County of San Francisco should use to challenge the version of Stand your Ground law that exists in California…the Castle Doctrine.
That idea, of protecting one’s castle, is too often used, I believe wrongly, to justify deadly force in this state.
But it still is based on what a reasonable man would do.
In the case of Stephen Guillermo, who after a night on the town, returned home…
His fatal mistake was getting off on the wrong floor of his apartment building.
Instead of the 5th floor, he went to the 3rd floor.
What happens from there is a matter of police work and fact-finding.
One fact is undisputed: Mr. Kachepa shot and killed Stephen Guillermo.
What would a reasonable man do?
A reasonable man does not hear a neighbor knocking on the door…and then shoot him.
How did Stephen enter the apartment? Was he let in? If he was inside…a reasonable man does not believe he’s in danger when he sees Stephen Guillermo, a small, unarmed, and non-violent person.
A reasonable man does not shoot first and answer questions later.
Indeed, why does a reasonable man in San Francisco even have a need for a gun?
To protect himself from Stephen Guillermo?
Mr. Kachepa must be charged with murder to explain his actions.
The DA cannot simply presume that the shooter had a “reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self.” We shouldn’t make it easy for people to use guns impulsively without consequences, even if they are afraid of something.
Mr. Kachepa must be held accountable for his actions.
But if Stephen Guillermo’s killer is set free by the DA, then the police and the DA have not just failed Stephen Guillermo, and his family and friends.
The SFPD and the DA, and the law, have failed the City and County of San Francisco.
I would urge this political body, the board of supervisors, to take action to support Stephen Guillermo’s quest for justice.
Speaking out for the family is the only thing left, if the police and the DA refuse to do their job and charge the killer with murder.
Note: On the evening of May 6, the assailant was released from jail with no criminal charges filed by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. NBC Bay City News: “Suspect in Fatal SoMa Shooting Released Without Charges,” https://bit.ly/1in1RsV.