Student faces 17 years for shooting homeless man

SAN DIEGO — A felony assault charge against a Midtown resident who confronted and shot a homeless man outside a neighborhood market should be dismissed or reduced because the shooting was justified, a defense attorney told a judge Thursday.

Antonio Serrano Barragan, who is free on $50,000 bail, faces a maximum 17 years in prison if convicted of assault with a firearm and allegations of great bodily injury and personal discharge of a gun.

Defense attorney Alara Chilton asked Judge John Einhorn to either dismiss the charge or reduce it from a felony to a misdemeanor. The attorney said her client repeatedly told the homeless man, Norson Obet, to leave the area before the victim ran at him.

Because of the allegations attached to the charge, the judge wondered whether he could legally reduce it and asked for further briefings on the matter. A ruling is expected Friday.

Barragan, 28, heard a commotion at the business near his home shortly after 11 p.m. on May 6 and responded by grabbing a gun and running over to see what was going on, according to San Diego police.

He arrived at the Cloverleaf Market in the 3000 block of Reynard Way to find Obet pounding on the front door, SDPD Officer Dino Delimitros said.

A store clerk testified that he had locked Obet out of the store because he was drunk and was shoplifting. The clerk said he called police when Obet kicked the door and knocked out a panel.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Moon said Barragan approached the market and placed himself about 20 feet away from Obet, with the loaded semiautomatic weapon at his side, and repeatedly ordered him to leave the area. Eventually, Obet ran toward the defendant with his hands behind his back, and Barragan fired one shot, wounding Obet in the left shoulder, according to the prosecutor.

Barragan told police that he didn’t believe Obet had a weapon when he charged him. The defendant also told a detective that he wouldn’t have fired the gun and would have called police if he had it to do over again, according to court testimony.