U.S. District Court

Gun-wielding, Instagram-using gang member faces firearms trial

A San Francisco man is facing trial on one count of ‘being a felon in possession of a firearm’ after filming Instagram stories of himself brandishing guns, which were subsequently recovered in a search of his mother’s home in Sunnydale.

Markquez Barnes had been released from a federal prison sentence for firearms offenses less than three months before the filming was detected by police.

His is the latest case featuring evidence from suspected gang members’ social media accounts obtained by SFPD investigators and used for prosecutions.

He appeared this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria who gave attorneys for the government and the defense one more month to seek agreement on a plea deal or have the case set for trial.­  

“We have been in discussions with the Government about possible resolution,” said federal public defender Sophia Whiting. “There have been some communications about what that would look like so we’re just getting down to those brass tacks and making sure Mr Barnes understands.”

In May and June 2022 Barnes filmed several Instagram stories showing him in possession of firearms, including a pistol fitted with a laser sight, and a ‘ghost gun’ equipped with an extended magazine.

He had been released from federal custody only a few months earlier – in late February 2022 – after serving a 32 month sentence for ‘being a felon in possession of a firearm’.

The Instagram account bore the username “i_do_this_fo_spunkz_and_yase” which prosecutors say refers to two men – Roderick Donelson and Mark Alexander – who were murdered while being members of a street gang.

One of the videos was shot near to Barnes’ mother’s residence in the Sunnydale housing development, where he was not permitted to be by court order.

He was previously arrested at the same location in 2019 – running in to the home after throwing a firearm in to a nearby trash can.

Barnes’ case is heading for either a guilty plea or a trial after Judge Chhabria denied a motion to surpress evidence found in the search – the gun – earlier this year. Federal public defender Gabriela Bischof faulted SFPD for concealing material facts from the judge signing the search warrant – particularly that the Brookdale Avenue address searched was of Barnes’ mother, with whom Bischof said he did not live, rather than his actual address.

This case has parallels with that of Josef Atchan – a felon forbidden to own guns who broadcast himself on Instagram Live brandishing a gun, was subsequently arrested with three guns, and then arrived at court in a car containing two more guns. He will be sentenced later this month, also by Judge Chhabria, after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Barnes will return to court on July 12 for a hearing that will either set a date for a bench trial – the defendant already having waived his right to a jury trial – or at which he will enter a guilty plea.

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