SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An elderly Mission District man was acquitted of hit-and-run after his attorney showed the accuser had “a longstanding and unfounded animus” against him and there was no evidence a hit-and-run happened, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office announced Tuesday.

A jury found 76-year-old Carlos Olivares Herrera not guilty last week of hit-and-run after deliberating for two hours.

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On August 6, Herrera was parked on Folsom St. near 22nd St. when he noticed a local community group giving away free bags of groceries. According to the public defender’s office, when Olivares inquired about the groceries, a volunteer first told him that he needed to get a ticket and wait, but then just gave him a bag.

As Olivares walked back to his car with the groceries, one of the giveaway organizers allegedly became incensed and ran after him to retrieve the bag, and claimed his car hit her on the hip as Olivares pulled away from the curb.

According to the public defender’s office, the woman called police nearly an hour later, claiming she saw Olivares buy beer, steal the bag of groceries, and speed away in his car, hitting her in the process. However, the woman refused medical attention. Several hours later, the woman saw Olivares parked on the same block as the alleged incident and called police back.

When officers arrived, the woman was using a pair of crutches while making her accusations but again refused any medical attention. Olivares denied stealing the groceries or being involved in a hit-and-run, and police found no evidence of alcohol impairment or possession. Olivares did have an expired license, which he admitted to a Spanish interpreter.

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Despite the lack of evidence or witness accounts, police arrested Olivares and charged him with hit-and-run and driving with an expired license. The public defender’s office said during the trial, there was no evidence showing the woman had been hit or injured other than her statements to firefighters who responded to the initial 911 call. However, the woman testified she recognized Olivares from the neighborhood and she had a longstanding animus toward him because she had seen him occasionally drinking beer at a local park prior to the August 6 encounter.

According to the public defender’s office, the accusations by the woman were “based on feelings more than facts.”

“This accusation was purely theatrical and bothersome because it exposed not only a real lack of community, but also how the power of police can be wielded so easily against someone like Mr. Olivares, who is low-income and whose first language isn’t English. Police never investigated Mr. Olivares’s side of the story,” said Deputy Public Defender Clemente Gonzalez in a prepared statement. “I have no idea why someone, who was presumably trying to help her neighbors by handing out free food, would harbor such animosity against Mr. Olivares, but whatever the issue was, it could have been resolved through neighborly communication.”

Olivares was found guilty of driving with an expired license and was fined $50.

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“We are grateful that a jury got to hear this case and made the right decision; it is always unsettling and a threat to all of our liberties when people weaponize calling the police instead of turning to each other over issues that could be resolved with more communication,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju in a statement. “Fortunately, Mr. Olivares had a Public Defender Team that was ready to expose the lack of evidence supporting the hit and run count.