MARTINEZ — A former security guard at a Richmond cannabis warehouse was acquitted of murdering a homeless man, attempting to murder another, and torching a homeless woman’s tent during a 2018 incident on the railroad tracks near his workplace.
Nebrith Rodriguez Rios,35, was found not guilty of murdering Francisco Carrillo and shooting a second man in the Oct. 27, 2018 incident. Jurors also acquitted him of felony arson in connection with a tent fire that preceded the shooting.
During trial, Rodriguez Rios’ attorney, Sarah Eisenhart, argued that the shooting was in self-defense. She told jurors that after the fire, Rodriguez Rios found himself surrounded by a small mob of people, some armed with melee weapons, and that he was backed into a corner with nowhere to run. She also pointed out that police failed to conduct an arson investigation that would have determined who or what started the fire.
“The quality of the police investigation in this case was very concerning. They failed to do an arson investigation and did not collect or test obvious evidence that pointed to my client’s innocence,” Eisenhart, a deputy public defender, said after the late August verdict. “We are so grateful to the jury for their thoughtful consideration of the evidence and for their just verdict.”
Rodriguez Rios was arrested and charged with murder in earlier 2019. He’d remained at the jail ever since then, for more than three-and-a-half years, until the verdict.
Both men who were shot apparently lived on the train tracks adjacent to a cannabis cultivation site at 1170 Hensley Street in Richmond, where Rodriguez Rios worked as a security guard.
Rodriguez Rios was hired as a security guard by his girlfriend, who worked at a nearby cultivation warehouse on Hensley Street. There was an ongoing issue at the site where homeless folks would cut holes through the fence that separated the train tracks from the warehouse property. Eisenhart said that Rodriguez Rios went to the train tracks that day after his backpack went missing, but that he wasn’t upset and simply wanted his property back.
A year earlier, a group of four burglars broke in and began to steal cannabis plants and marijuana, according to Richmond police. But during the early morning burglary, they were thwarted by employees who opened fire on the burglars, who returned fire. One of the burglars was struck in the leg, and all four were later charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and other offenses. One of them was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison earlier this year.
Ted Asregadoo, a spokesman for the Contra Costa District Attorneys office, said in a written statement the verdict “will leave many disappointed.” During trial, deputy district attorney Kabu Adodoadji portrayed Rodriguez Rios as angry and bitter, that he started the fire after blaming nearby homeless people for the missing backpack and used the gun to threaten people who came running to put out the fire before shooting the two alleged victims.
“That sense of disappointment is certainly felt by those who prosecuted this murder case,” Asregadoo said. “While we absolutely acknowledge and accept that the jury has spoken, prosecutors at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will continue to fight for victims of crime.”