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Man accused of shooting off-duty deputy faces judge

SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of shooting an off-duty sheriff's deputy and a bystander during an early morning scuffle near Petco Park last month pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple felony charges.

Ray Koloseta Pitoau, 37, was taken into custody about noon Wednesday on the southern outskirts of Tijuana and turned over to San Diego police detectives.

Pitoau was charged with three counts of assault with a firearm, including allegations that he caused great bodily injury to the victims, and a trio of weapons possession counts.

Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren set bail at $3 million.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Reilly said the defendant confronted a group of people, including the off-duty Deputy Jason Philpot and two off-duty Escondido police officers, following a concert around 1:15 a.m. Aug. 7 in the 500 block of Island Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter and displayed a handgun.

"The off-duty sheriff's (deputy) rushed him and tried to get the weapon but he was shot two times," Reilly said.

Philpot was struck in the shoulder and a man walking nearby was injured in the arm by an apparent stray round. The assailant tore off his shirt and fled following the gunfire.

Philpot, an 11-year member of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, and the other victim were treated for non-life-threatening bullet wounds. Police have not disclosed a motive for the violence.

Two days later, police surrounded a Spring Valley home where Pitoau was suspected of hiding out. Following a four-hour standoff, members of a SWAT team entered the Tarleton Street residence, but the suspect was not there.

Police did not say what led them to the Spring Valley home. About a week later, on Aug. 17, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association of San Diego County and San Diego County Crime Stoppers announced a joint $6,000 reward for information leading to Pitoau's arrest, but police gave no indication before this week that they were aware of his whereabouts.

His arrest Wednesday in Tijuana was the result of collaboration between Baja California state police and the U.S. Marshals Service San Diego Fugitive Task Force, San Diego police Lt. Ernesto Servin said.

"The week-long joint operation led Mexican authorities to a home south of Tijuana where Pitoau was hiding," Servin said Wednesday. "Pitoau was arrested without incident and later deported to the U.S. from Mexico. U.S. Marshals helped facilitate the transfer of Pitoau from Mexican authorities to San Diego Police detectives."

Pitoau, who has several unspecified priors, faces 150 years to life if convicted. The judge scheduled a readiness conference for Sept. 18 at the downtown courthouse.