Man Pleads Not Guilty, Accused of Murdering Homeless Shelter Security Guard

Memorial outside homeless shelter for slain guard
Alpha Project/NBC 7

One of two men accused in the shooting death of a security guard outside an East Village homeless shelter in December pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges.

Floyd Garrett, 47, is accused along with Johnny Lee Hill, 40, in the Dec. 28, 2019, slaying of Ernest Lee Buchanan, a 44-year-old father of six and guard at the Alpha Project tent shelter at 1700 Imperial Ave.

Hill was arrested Jan. 7 in San Diego and pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this year, while Garrett was arrested Jan. 4 in Phoenix and was being held in Arizona before recently being extradited to California. County jail records indicate he was booked into the San Diego Central Jail on May 8.

Both men face life imprisonment if convicted of murder, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm. They are each being held in lieu of $10 million bail.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry alleged that surveillance footage and smart street lights captured the men waiting for Buchanan to arrive from a meal break before gunning him down in the street around 7:30 p.m., then fleeing the scene.

A motive for the killing was not disclosed, nor did authorities reveal whether there was any relationship between the defendants and Buchanan.

Both men allegedly parked about a block away, walked toward the Alpha Project and opened fire on Buchanan, who was pronounced dead at a hospital, according to police and prosecutors.

Carberry said "two separate muzzle blasts" can be seen on surveillance footage, and spent rounds from both 9mm and 45-caliber firearms were found at the shooting scene.

In addition to video footage, Carberry said DNA left on items at the scene was matched to Hill.

The prosecutor said Hill and Garrett both have ties to San Diego street gangs and extensive criminal histories. At Garrett's Tuesday video arraignment, Carberry said Garrett has prior convictions for attempted murder and bank robbery.

Both men are due back in court on June 30 for a preliminary hearing.

NBC 7's Dave Summers spoke to the wife of a security guard shot and killed this weekend at an Alpha Project shelter in East Village.
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