Sentence handed down for 2007 road rage death in San Francisco's Mission district 

click to enlarge Angry response: Hamilton Diaz ran over Randal Gross with his car in 2007 after a confrontation between the two escalated. (Examiner file photo) - ANGRY RESPONSE: HAMILTON DIAZ RAN OVER RANDAL GROSS WITH HIS CAR IN 2007 AFTER A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE TWO ESCALATED. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Angry response: Hamilton Diaz ran over Randal Gross with his car in 2007 after a confrontation between the two escalated. (Examiner file photo)
  • Angry response: Hamilton Diaz ran over Randal Gross with his car in 2007 after a confrontation between the two escalated. (Examiner file photo)

A house painter convicted of a 2007 killing in the Mission district was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison after his attorney successfully argued his client had been provoked into plowing his car into the victim on the sidewalk as the man was walking away.

Hamilton Diaz, 30, was arrested a short time after fleeing the scene of the March 20, 2007, early-morning
crash that left 24-year-old Randal Gross dead. The pair had argued after Gross, who was high on cocaine, tried to walk across the street at 16th and Valencia streets and encountered Diaz, who was trying to make a turn in his Toyota Tercel.

Gross then smashed Diaz’s windshield with his fist, and as he was walking away, Diaz gunned the engine and drove up onto the sidewalk, hitting and killing Gross. Diaz, who was on parole at the time, was arrested after abandoning his car nearby and police spotted him after he ditched some of his clothing in a garbage can.

Through prosecutors argued the case was murder, a jury in June convicted Diaz of voluntary manslaughter, agreeing with the defense’s contention that Diaz had "snapped" and acted in the heat of passion.

"That’s not heat of passion, that’s unadulterated anger," Gross’ mother told Judge Jerome Benson at Diaz’s sentencing hearing Tuesday. She said she was convinced Diaz was the initial provoker, and insisted her son had been murdered.

Gross’ mother said her son, an auto shop worker and surfer, was "extremely responsible" and "had a huge heart," though she acknowledged his drug use.

Diaz then read a one-line statement apologizing to Gross’ family "for what happened."

While Benson said he agreed Gross had been "an initiator" and that his conduct "did provoke the incident," he ended up sentencing Diaz to an aggravated term for what he described as "a high degree of viciousness and callousness, way beyond knocking someone down with a car intentionally."

"The defendant’s running up on him at full throttle can almost be considered to be an ambush,"
Benson said.

The 14-year prison term comes with credits for time Diaz has already served in jail since his arrest.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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