Victim says axe-wielding driver yelled racial slurs before fatal hit-and-run
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) A man accused of intentionally mowing down five people Wednesday in San Francisco's Dogptach neighborhood, killing one of the victims, appeared in court this afternoon.
Mark Dennis, 33, has been charged with one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder, six counts of assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of assault causing great bodily injury.
Dennis' arraignment was held over for Thursday and he remained in custody without bail.
The collision, which occurred around 10:25 a.m. near the corner of Illinois and 24th streets, killed 43-year-old Eliseo Lopez and hospitalized four other men.
Today, one of the victims showed up to the arraignment.
According to Valentin Benitez Cruz, he and the four other victims, who are all friends and part of a fishing group, were coming back from fishing just blocks away when Dennis stopped his van, exited the van and began yelling at them.
"First, he attacked us verbally," Benitez Cruz said in Spanish, alleging that Dennis yelled racial slurs at them.
According to court documents, Dennis went back to his white GMC van, grabbed a bottle and threw it at the group. One of the group members may have thrown the bottle back at him.
Dennis, however, once more went to his van and this time retrieved an axe, according to court documents.
The men, however, were able to take the axe away from Dennis.
That's when Dennis allegedly got back into his van, made a U-turn and drove onto the sidewalk, striking all five victims.
Dennis then fled the scene, before being apprehended by police about an hour later in a different part of the city, according to court documents.
"Nobody should die this way," Benitez Cruz said of his friend Lopez, holding back tears.
All five men were taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where Lopez died from his injuries. Only one of the four remaining victims is still in the hospital in critical condition, hospital spokesman Brent Andrew confirmed today.
Lopez's roommate, Marta Rebolledo, also attended the arraignment and said outside of court, "He was more than family, he was a great man, a working man. That day he was going to work; he was day laborer. But his boss called him and told him he had the day off."
Rebolledo said Lopez celebrated Lent and had been fishing because he believed in eating fish during the month-long religious observance.
"That's what he did and that's when his life ended," she said.