Michael Hampton’s shirtless body was slumped over the steering wheel of his red Mustang, which had run into a fence post in an industrial area of warehouses and RV camps in the Bayview.
The 33-year-old San Franciscan was shot once through the heart a half block away from where his car crashed on Feb. 21, 2020. San Francisco Police Department homicide inspectors didn’t make an arrest in the case until late May of that year, when they brought in a couple—one who lived in an RV right next to where the killing occurred.
But prosecutors and defense attorneys in the murder trial of two defendants—45-year-olds Sarina Borg and Fasi Fotu—disagree on what a key piece of video footage shows, and whether that evidence offers validation or an indictment on the shooting investigation. The case may turn on how video evidence—often considered rock-solid to securing a conviction—can in some ways complicate a case, especially when a witness contradicts a seemingly straightforward version of events.
On Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, prosecutors set out a straightforward yet motiveless series of events, most of which were caught on video.
“Futo pulled the trigger,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan King said in his opening statement Thursday. “Borg controlled the situation.”
The two defense attorneys in the case countered that narrative in their opening statements, arguing that investigators took their only eyewitness’ statements at face value and chased after the defendants as suspects after receiving an anonymous tip.
“You’ve only heard the prosecutor’s theory of the case; you haven’t heard any evidence,” said Peter Fitzpatrick, who is representing Fotu. “It’s not the full story.”
Fitzpatrick contends that Fotu was not the shooter, and another man who is responsible for killing Hampton remains free.
The investigation began soon after the killing, when police canvassed Wallace Avenue between Ingalls and Jennings streets for witnesses, evidence and video. Officers found all three.
The footage collected by police shows Fotu and Borg eating tacos at a food truck before the killing, prosecutors say. It also allegedly shows the two open the driver’s side door of Hampton’s car and shoot him in the back, before fleeing the scene in separate cars and then arriving minutes later at Fotu’s house.
Manuel Portio, who runs a fruit stand not far from the incident, told police via a translator that day that he saw a Latina woman with blond hair come out of an RV and give a Latino man a gun. Then he saw that man shoot someone in a red Mustang, which drove away. The shooter, wearing a black hoodie and a black beanie, then left the scene in a white Trailblazer with two women.
While police interviewed Judy Paige—the woman who allegedly handed the shooter a gun and fits the suspect description given to police by Portio—they did not focus on her as a potential suspect, Fitzpatrick said. Instead, they followed a lead that led them to Fotu and Borg.
“The officers had a blind spot,” Fitzpatrick said. “They completely ignored her role in this crime.”
Borg was brought in for questioning on May 13, and Inspector Barry Parker showed her the video evidence that police collected, pointing out that she was seen in the footage. She acknowledged it was her in the footage but said she didn’t recall anything, according to her attorney.
Parker let her walk, in what prosecutor King said was a sharp investigative move. Borg would go on to call Fotu, who was in jail, and tell him about the worrying footage she’d seen.
“‘It’s ugly—ugly as fuck,” Borg told Fotu, according to court records. “Videos, cameras, everything. Clear as day. Everything.”
Inspector Parker retrieved the recording of that conversation, prosecutors said, and in late May, both were arrested and charged.
Defense attorneys told the jury Thursday that Borg’s phone call was not an admission of guilt and the video evidence was not as convincing as prosecutors suggest—especially with an eyewitness pointing to an unknown second suspect.
“When the facts don’t match the theory, it’s time to change the theory,” said Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, adding that the prosecution’s first theory was based on a witness’ statement, but then it changed to focus on the anonymous tipster.
“Based on that anonymous eyewitness that wasn’t there, the police changed their theory,” Pray said. “Police laser-focused on the wrong person.”
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]