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Charges Refiled In SF Haight Shooting Over Chihuahua

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Prosecutors Wednesday said they were refiling an attempted murder charge against an employee at a market on San Francisco’s Haight Street accused of shooting a customer in the back during a dispute over a Chihuahua in February, after a judge dismissed the charge earlier this month.

Sam Kazzouh, 44, is accused in the Feb. 9 shooting at Fred’s New Lite Market, a store at 1416 Haight St. near Masonic Avenue that is owned by his brother Fred.

The victim, Matthew Stafford, got into an argument earlier that day with Sam Kazzouh, who had allegedly kicked Stafford’s tan Chihuahua named Gizmo while it was in the store, police and prosecutors said.

As the argument escalated, Kazzouh allegedly retrieved a gun and fired three shots at Stafford, one of which struck him in the back. He survived the shooting but is now paralyzed, prosecutors said.

Kazzouh was arrested in the store a short time later and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, and discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner.

Gizmo, the dog at the center of the argument, died less than two weeks later when it was run over by a car at the intersection of Haight Street and Masonic Avenue. It was being cared for by one of Stafford’s friends, police said.

At the Aug. 3 preliminary hearing in the case, Kazzouh’s attorney, Christopher Hite of the public defender’s office, argued that the shooting was in self-defense.

Hite brought forward several witnesses who testified that Stafford was loudly threatening Kazzouh just before the shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Michele Dawson countered that Stafford was unarmed and was shot in the back while trying to flee the store.

Judge Suzanne Bolanos ruled at the end of the hearing that there was not enough evidence to hold Kazzouh on the attempted murder charge, but ordered him to stand trial on the assault and firearm charges.

Bolanos also reduced Kazzouh’s bail from $300,000 to $75,000, and he has since posted bail and been released from jail.

Kazzouh returned to court Wednesday for formal arraignment on the charges, and during the hearing Dawson said the district attorney’s office would be refiling the attempted murder charge.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Erica Terry Derryck said prosecutors can choose to go to trial with the charge even though it was dismissed by a judge, since that fact will be known to the jury and “makes for a more challenging case.”

Kazzouh was scheduled to return to court on Sept. 12 for a pretrial conference, and the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on Oct. 21.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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