Vigilantism is never an acceptable course of action, prosecutors said, even for distraught parents who want to get their daughter back from a pimp.
Muni operator Barry Gilton, 38, and longtime girlfriend Lupe Mercado, 37, reportedly shot known Compton gang member Calvin Sneed in the head as he drove near Meade and Le Conte avenues in The City just after 2 a.m. June 4. Sneed was believed to have been pimping the couple’s 17-year-old daughter.
Attorneys for Gilton and Mercado denied that the pair killed Sneed, saying the parents’ numerous pleas to various agencies for help getting their daughter back had proven unsuccessful.
A week before the killing, prosecutors said, the couple had tracked Sneed to Los Angeles, where they believed the 22-year-old was pimping their daughter. Gilton found Sneed in North Hollywood and allegedly shot and wounded him with a 9 mm handgun.
The following week, Sneed drove up to San Francisco to reclaim the girl, District Attorney George Gascón said Thursday. Mercado allegedly told Gilton about Sneed’s arrival. Gilton then drove up alongside Sneed’s Toyota Camry and fired three shots, prosecutors said.
The situation was “a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Gilton’s attorney, Eric Safire.
But Gascón said that did not give the couple a license to kill.
“I understand the frustration that the parents must have felt,” he said. “Having said that, taking the law into your own hands is never an acceptable solution.”
Deadly force, Gascón added, is “only justified when you’re defending someone from an immediate threat of deadly force or great bodily injury.”
Still, the district attorney said he remains “sensitive to the circumstance surrounding this case.”
“Whether she was there willingly or forced to be there, those are things we’ll be looking into,” Gascón said. “I’m sure there will be new developments in this case.”
Safire called the prosecution’s evidence against Gilton “quite circumstantial” and said Sneed could have been shot by another gang member “in his normal customary business.”
Sneed, a member of the Nutty Block Crips gang, met the San Francisco teenager in Los Angeles, where he allegedly employed her as a sex worker, prosecutors said.
But Sneed isn’t the only party in this case with a criminal record.
Gilton, who’s been employed with Muni since 2008, is being charged as a felon in possession of a firearm due to a 1995 drug conviction, prosecutors said.
He and Mercado are scheduled to appear in court again June 20 after not entering a plea Wednesday.
Bay City News contributed to this report