Man accused of punching cop ordered to stand trial

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SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of punching a San Diego police officer in the face after being ordered to stop walking in the middle of the street near a protest involving two rival groups in Chicano Park must stand trial on four charges, including assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and resisting an executive officer.

Frederick Jefferson, 39, faces nine years and four months in prison if convicted.

San Diego police Officer Justin Tennebaum testified that he and his partner, Officer Matthew Ruggiero, were driving on Logan Avenue, on the outskirts of the protest in the park, when they told Jefferson to walk on the sidewalk.

As Jefferson continued to walk toward the park, the officers got out of their marked patrol car and approached the defendant, telling him he was violating the law. Tennebaum's body-worn camera captured what happened about 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 3.

"You're gonna get a ticket, or go to jail," one of the officers is heard telling the defendant.

Ruggiero is seen trying to grab Jefferson's arm, but the defendant shoved the officer away.

As the two came together again, Jefferson is seen punching Ruggiero in the face as the officer struck the defendant in the upper thigh with his expandable baton.

A motorcycle officer grabbed Jefferson from behind and they eventually went to the ground. The video shows five officers trying to subdue Jefferson until he was handcuffed minutes later.

Tennebaum said Ruggiero suffered a laceration above his left eye, a broken nose and a broken jaw. Deputy District Attorney Michael Reilly said Ruggiero is continuing to recover at home.

"This officer was hurt very, very badly," said Superior Court Judge Sharon Majors-Lewis as she ruled that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for Jefferson to proceed to trial. The judge told defense attorney Jimmy Rodriguez that a possible claim of self-defense could be raised at trial.

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