David Morales, the 19-year-old suspect involved in a deadly two-car collision on New Year’s day, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two counts of murder and other charges. The collision happened at 21st Street and South Van Ness Avenue Jan. 1 at about 7:45 a.m. and left two people dead.
“He’s not a callous person,” said Deputy Public Defender Stephen Olmo, who is defending Morales. “This was a tragic accident. He is upset over the whole matter.”
Morales is being charged with two murders, three attempted murders, evading an officer, causing bodily harm, participation in a gang, and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun. Morales faces multiple life terms and over 200 years in prison if convicted.
Bail was set at $10 million for the murder charges, but because he violated his felony probation, Morales is currently being held without bail.
District Attorney George Gascón has described Morales as a known Norteño gang member who is on felony probation for a gang-related charge in San Mateo County in April 2012.
“We are prosecuting this case to the fullest extent because I have no tolerance for violence. Innocent bystanders were killed because of the reckless actions of a young man who is a known gang member,” said Gascón in a statement. “We are losing too many people in our city because of gang violence. I’d like to implore upon parents to take a more active role with your children to ensure they are on a successful path to life.”
Olmo offered his condolences to the families of the two victims who were killed in the accident, but said that it was “over-reaching” to charge Morales with murder in what was a “tragic accident.”
Morales wore an orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed behind his back as he quietly pleaded not guilty. Olmo said Morales sustained injuries to his neck in the accident and he is still concerned with his client’s health.
Morales was driving at high speed on South Van Ness Avenue on New Year’s day when his vehicle struck a white Toyota sedan, which in turn crashed into a pedestrian and Muzio’s Wine Liquor store at the corner of 21st Street and South Van Ness Avenue. Silvia Tun Cun, 29, the passenger in the Toyota, and the pedestrian Francisco Gutierrez, 26, were killed in the collision. The 18-year-old driver of the Toyota was critically injured.
Police said that Morales was evading officers, who attempted a traffic stop after Morales shot at three people at Valencia Gardens that morning. No one was injured in the shooting.
Assistant District Attorney John Ullom is prosecuting the case.
Morales waived his right to a preliminary hearing to be scheduled within 10 days. He will next appear in court on January 29.