Alleged shoplifter accused of firing gun during struggle faces judge

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SAN DIEGO – An alleged shoplifter accused of punching and biting an employee who confronted him outside a Serra Mesa convenience store and firing a gun during the struggle pleaded not guilty Tuesday to assault and robbery charges.

Branden Garcia, 20, was ordered held on $150,000 bail.

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Rand told Judge Frederick Maguire that Garcia and a female friend were in the 7-Eleven store on Sandrock Road for about 20 minutes last Thursday night before being asked to leave.

Garcia allegedly walked out without paying for some shampoo and other items and was taken to the ground by two store employees. A bystander was able to wrest the gun away from the suspect, and no one was hurt, police said.

The defendant, who has a prior conviction for reckless driving, will be back in court Feb. 4 for a readiness conference and Feb. 8 for a preliminary hearing.

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