Two men charged in a fatal 2014 shooting outside a South of Market single-room occupancy hotel were found not guilty of murder and felony assault charges by a jury Wednesday.
Darius York, 36, was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm but acquitted of charges of murder and assault, while his codefendant, Joseph Young, 35, who had faced felony assault charges, was found guilty only of misdemeanor assault.
York and Young, who both lived at the Henry Hotel at Sixth and Mission streets, were arrested following the July 22, 2014 shooting death of Daniel Beltran.
Beltran was shot after a 5 a.m. fistfight that erupted after he and a companion, Roger Alarcon, attempted to gain entry to the hotel. York and Young, a security guard, helped desk clerk Gary Owens eject the pair but York then fired a shot through the hotel’s front door that struck Beltran in the heart.
The fight and shooting were captured by surveillance cameras from multiple angles, but the videos lacked audio, leaving prosecutors and defense attorneys to wrangle in the month-long trial over what was said and the possible motives for the shooting.
Prosecutors argued in the trial that York and Young were the primary aggressors, bringing a gun to what Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said “should have been a fist fight.”
However, defense attorneys argued that York believed Beltran had a gun and that he fired in self-defense during a fight in which Beltran and Alarcon allegedly claimed gang membership and threatened to come back to the hotel with backup.
The prosecution was also hampered by a lack of testimony from Beltran’s companions, noted Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
Deputy Public Defender Matthew Sotorosen, who defended York, said that his client sobbed with gratitude when the verdict was returned:
“The evidence proved that the two younger men were the initial aggressors, and Mr. York was protecting himself and his companions in his place of residence. … It was a split second, life altering decision he made because he felt lives were at risk.”