Bartender charged in baseball-bat slaying


A bartender at a popular restaurant in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood was charged today with murder for allegedly killing a man with a baseball bat.

The incident happened near the Flora Restaurant at the corner of 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue, across from the Fox Theater, at about 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

Authorities say 29-year-old Juan Espino, who works as a bartender at Flora, got into a verbal argument with the victim near the restaurant. Police say Espino then went to an upstairs office and got a baseball bat.

Investigators say surveillance video shows Espino running with the bat toward the victim, who is walking away from him on Telegraph Avenue.

Oakland police say Espino, an East Oakland resident, came up to the victim from behind and, with two hands, swung the bat, hitting the victim, 42-year-old Cooky York, in the head. York died at a hospital.

 A little more than a minute after the attack, Espino is seen on video walking back toward the restaurant with the bat still in his hand, according to police.

Alameda County prosecutors charged Espino with murder and an enhancement for allegedly using a deadly weapon, the baseball bat.

His attorney and friends did not want to comment after the court hearing. One man in the audience raised his arm in the air, but Espino did not appear to respond. He did not enter a plea. 

Flora Restaurant issued a statement saying, "Sunday's events are tragic and heartbreaking and will have a lasting effect on much of our staff and community. We send our deepest condolences to the victim's family, and to anyone else who was affected by this horrific tragedy. The world has far too much violence in it."

Restaurant officials said Espino was not on the clock at the time of the killing and is no longer employed by Flora.


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