Man stabbed firefighter in self-defense, attorney says

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SAN DIEGO -- A man stabbed two San Diego firefighters who were tending to an intoxicated man at an East Village trolley station last year, a prosecutor said Monday, but a defense attorney said his client was trying to help the drunk man and stabbed the firefighters in self-defense after being pushed over a bench by a fire captain.

Ryan Allen Jones, 35, is charged with two counts each of attempted murder of a firefighter, assault with a deadly weapon and battery. He faces more than 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schott told a jury in his opening statement that firefighters Benjamin Vernon and Alex Wallbrett were just doing their jobs, responding to a medical-aid call around 4 p.m. June 24, 2015, when Jones stabbed them in a "brazen attack'' that was "nothing short of pure violence.''

Schott said Jones made a calculated decision to pull out a pocket knife, flip it open and attack the firefighters as they tried to help the intoxicated man at the trolley stop in the 500 block of Park Boulevard.

 

Most of the attack was caught on video.

Schott told the jury that at some point, Jones decided to get between a Metropolitan Transit System security guard and the drunk man, trying to help.

The security guard asked the defendant to step back and let the firefighters do their job, but Jones responded, "I'm a Marine, I do this every day,'' according to Schott.

The prosecutor said Jones was asked to step back three times, but he didn't listen, that prompted Fire Captain Steven Michaels to take action.

"He steps on the defendant’s foot and shoved him.  The defendant says why are you trying to intimidate me?" said Schott.

Schott said Jones then attacked a security guard, who put the defendant in a headlock.

Jones then "bull-rushed'' a guard and was "pepper-sprayed'' by security personnel, according to the prosecutor.

Defense attorney Thomas Barr blamed the fire captain for starting the events that led to a 6-on-1 melee.

"The Fire captain had a short fuse," said Barr.  "He was already agitated they had to respond to a drunken individual."

Barr said Jones, who had moved to San Diego from the Bay Area, was at the trolley stop after picking up some groceries at a nearby market.

The attorney said Jones saw a security guard roughing up the intoxicated man, giving him flashbacks to 2008, when he (Jones) had an incident with the Bay Area Rapid Transit police in which he was hit with a baton. Schott said Jones was convicted in Oakland of battery on a peace officer.

"He thought he was going to get injured, he was in fear for his safety for his well being for his life," said Barr.

He said Jones was trying to keep the drunk man calm when Michaels shoved him to the ground.

"He went there to help, Mr. Jones acted in self defense."

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