San Francisco trial in killing on Mission sidewalk under way 

Four years ago, a drunk and belligerent pedestrian engaged in a late-night argument with a driver in the Mission. Moments later, the motorist drove up on the sidewalk and struck the pedestrian from behind, killing him.

A prosecutor said Monday that Hamilton Diaz, now 30 years old, either intended to kill or had such disregard for human life that a jury should find him guilty of murdering 24-year-old Randal Gross on March 20, 2007.

The incident began about 2 a.m., attorneys agreed, when Gross and a friend tried to cross 16th Street at Valencia Street and encountered a red Toyota Tercel driven by Diaz, who was trying to make a turn but apparently had to wait for the pair to continue.

Words were exchanged. Diaz got out of his car. Gross’ friend tried to break up the dispute. And when Diaz returned to his car to leave, Gross smashed the windshield with his fist.

What jurors think about what happened next could decide Diaz’s fate.

In his opening argument, defense attorney Mark Goldrosen said Diaz, egged on by the the “confrontational” and “belligerent” Gross, “snapped.” Goldrosen said Gross had been kicked out of a bar earlier that evening, and an autopsy found high levels of alcohol and cocaine in his system. Goldrosen said his client also had been drinking.

But Assistant District Attorney Asit Panwala said Diaz should be held responsible for his decision. As Gross was walking away from the confrontation, Panwala said, Diaz drove up onto the sidewalk, “put his foot to the gas” and struck the pedestrian.

Diaz then drove off and soon abandoned the car nearby, Panwala said. He was arrested after changing out of his clothing and ditching some of it in a garbage can.

Goldrosen told jurors his client was guilty of leaving the scene, but not murder.

The jury’s verdict could range from murder to manslaughter to outright acquittal.


Alleged ‘road rage’ incidents

  • April 9, 2008: A 37-year-old man is shot dead in his car with his two young children inside after an apparent argument with the occupants of another car on Interstate 280.
  • Dec. 10, 2008: A 53-year-old pedestrian is punched and hospitalized after slamming his backpack on a car hood during an argument with a driver in the Haight.
  • Nov. 19, 2009: A 20-year-old man is shot in the hand while driving in the Bayview, after failing to let another driver pass in front of him.
  • Feb. 3, 2009: A 46-year-old off-duty police sergeant biking in the Haight is stabbed after an argument with a 28-year-old man driving a Cadillac.
  • June 2, 2010: Four bicyclists are hit by a 39-year-old East Bay man driving an SUV in separate hit-and-run attacks in the Mission and Potrero Hill.
  • Aug. 25, 2010: A 52-year-old pedestrian is hospitalized in critical condition after falling and hitting his head during a fight with a driver in Potrero Hill.
  • April 6: A 20-year-old male driver is arrested after allegedly beating two men in another car with a baseball bat at the Stonestown mall.

Sources: Staff reports, Bay City News

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