DA won't seek death penalty in tourist's murder

September 30, 2011 8:37:20 PM PDT
District Attorney George Gascon has decided he will not seek the death penalty for the young men accused of killing a German tourist in San Francisco. Six people are facing charges in the shooting death of Mechthild Schroer. The 50-year-old German tourist was hit by a stray bullet a year ago while walking with her husband in the city's theater district.

Gascon says there are a couple of sons he's opted against seeking the death penalty. He says he's not sure he could get a death penalty conviction in San Francisco, and given the facts in this case he would not pursue a death penalty anyway. None the less, he's happy that the grand jury indicted most of the suspects on first degree murder.

It's been a year and two months since crowds of teenagers scrambled out of a theater district party. That night, San Francisco police say gunshots were exchanged between rival gangs and a stray bullet killed Schroer.

"When you look at the number of defendants in this case and the amount of witnesses that were involved in this case, we wanted to make sure that we not sever the case, so strategically it makes sense to do a grand jury," Gascon said.

The six young men arranged Friday morning had been arrested shortly after the shooting but were later released. Then District Attorney Kamala Harris said there was a lack of evidence for a conviction.

Now, five of the six young men in custody are facing first degree murder charges and police are still trying to arrest a seventh suspect.

"There were at least four guns used that night, ballistic tests had to be done, DNA analysis had to be done, there's a lot of things that had to come together to make an informed intelligent decision," Assistant District Attorney Eric Flemming said.

Gascon commended the businesses in the congested San Francisco neighborhood for helping in the investigation. Several provided surveillance video that helped investigators piece together a case. Some also pitched in to help the victim's husband and two sons when they visited San Francisco following Schroer's death.

And according to Henry Mulak, a Bay Area journalist currently living in Berlin, San Francisco locals were instrumental in raising money for a memorial in honor of Schroer in Germany.

"The school where the woman was an administrator held a memorial service just last week; they used some of the $6,000 raised in San Francisco for that purpose. They say they don't want to forget her; she was well loved in the community," Mulak said.

Gascon says the indictments were a high priority for his office.

"There was very bad media going on, certainly in Europe about the safety of San Francisco, so it was very important for us to show as a community that this was not something that we were going to tolerate," Gascon said.

The consul general of Germany made a short statement at Friday's press conference; she said her government is happy about the progress on the case.


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