The attorney for a Fisherman’s Wharf souvenir shop merchant accused of fatally gunning down two next-door rivals in January asked for criminal proceedings to be suspended Thursday, claiming her client was not mentally competent to stand trial.
Hong Ri Wu, 56, of San Francisco is facing two counts of murder for allegedly gunning down one woman, 30-year-old Feng Ping Ou, and then shooting a man, 30-year-old Qiong Han Chu, inside their shop at 269 Jefferson St. on Jan. 31.
Vendors in the area said Wu and the victims sold similar items, including knockoff scarves and purses, and had argued daily. Wu was angry that the victims blocked the view of his shop with some of their wares, they said.
“I have a doubt in regard to Mr. Wu’s competency at this time,” Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway told a judge Thursday morning. Hathaway said Wu couldn’t understand the charges against him or effectively assist her in his defense.
A hearing is scheduled for June 13 for a judge to appoint a doctor to examine Wu, at which point criminal proceedings will be suspended until a determination on competency is made.
If found incompetent to stand trial, Wu would be sent to a state psychiatric hospital. If his competency were to be restored, likely through forced medication, the criminal case would be reinstated, according to Hathaway.
“It’s all about his mental state,” Hathaway said outside court. “No one knows what Mr. Wu was thinking at the time.” She suggested the shooting “is not what it appears to be,” but declined to elaborate.
Hathaway said Wu had emigrated to the U.S. from China’s Canton Province in 1989 and was divorced.
According to prosecutors, Wu calmly walked into the shop, shot Ou in the front of the store and Chu in the back, told two witnesses they could leave, and then stood outside until police arrived. A semi-automatic handgun was found near him, prosecutors said.
The owner of a nearby shop told The San Francisco Examiner after the shooting that Wu was “not the kind of person you would expect to take an action like that,” and described him as a quiet and humble man.