San Francisco prosecutors file hate crime charges
in triple murder case
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
March 23, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco district attorney's
office has added hate crime allegations to a triple-murder case
involving a white defendant and three Asian victims.
Joseph Melcher, 25, is accused of killing two people on Oct.
21, one inside a Japantown bar and another outside near Peace
Plaza in Japantown.
Prosecutors also claim that Melcher is responsible for an apparently
random road rage incident two months earlier.
The hate crime allegations tie all three homicides together because
the victims were of the same ethnicity, race and national origin
while Melcher is of European decent, Assistant District Attorney
Eric Fleming said today in court.
Witnesses claim that at the time of at least one of the incidents,
Melcher yelled out not to mess with "Johnny Boy, whitey San
Francisco coke dealer."
Melcher's defense lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Gabriel Bassan,
vehemently denied the allegations and maintained that his client
is not guilty on all charges.
If convicted of the hate crime allegations, Melcher would spend
the rest of his life in prison. Allegations of multiple murder
would also make him eligible for life in prison.
Police said Melcher killed Robert Stanford, 21, and shot Stanford's
16-year-old friend as they were leaving the Portola neighborhood
home where they had been playing Monopoly into the early hours
of Aug. 27.
Stanford's stepfather, David Garrison, said outside court that
the hate crimes are a long time in coming.
"I really wanted them to file it from the get-go,"
Garrison said. "This is the worst thing that can happen to
a family. I mean, it was such a completely random thing."
Melcher apparently didn't know Stanford or the two other homicide
victims he allegedly shot in Japantown.
In the Japantown incident, police said Melcher shot and killed
34-year-old Song Sun Lee with a semi-automatic handgun inside
The Flow bar at 1704 Post St. An unidentified female bartender
also sustained injuries but survived.
Once outside, according to police and witnesses, Melcher approached
Kam Yan Li, 22, asked him something and then opened fire. Li,
who friends fondly called Steven, died the next day.
Homicide inspectors Maureen D'Amico and Michael Johnson began
looking into a link to the killings after they noticed the description
of Melcher fit the description given in Stanford's murder. They
also noticed the same caliber weapon was used in both shootings
and that ballistic evidence confirmed the match: a gun registered
to Melcher in Los Angeles.
According to police, Stanford was killed occurred around 2:30
a.m. on Aug. 27 near the intersection of San Bruno Avenue and
Stanford and his friend were leaving Stanford's girlfriend's
house in their car when a small red vehicle blocked their way.
The driver of the red car got out and fired on the two men, killing
Stanford and injuring his friend. Police only speculated at the
time that the killing was a road rage incident.
Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.