Man accused of shooting off-duty deputy takes stand in his own defense

SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of shooting an off-duty sheriff's deputy after a Metallica concert last summer took the witness stand Tuesday in his own defense.

Ray Pitoau is in the middle of his second trial about the shooting. He is charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and accused of shooting  36-year-old deputy Jason Philpot  during a fight.

At Tuesday's hearing, Pitoau testified that the confrontation that led to the shooting started after a Philpot's brother made a comment to him.

"It wasn’t in an aggressive tone, but it was in a derogatory way -- the way he said it," Pitoau testified. "He said it in a joking manner, but I took it as offensive."

"You felt disrespected?" his attorney asked. Yes," said Pitaou.

At an earlier hearing in January, Philpot testified that on August 6, 2017, he and his brother Josh were out in the Gaslamp Quarter with friends following a Metallica concert. His brother got into a verbal confrontation with Pitoau, Philpot said. He testified that Pitoau pulled a gun, so he stepped in front of his brother to protect him, and Pitoau shot him point blank three times with a .38-caliber revolver.

One of the shots passed through Philpot and hit a bystander named Vladimir Shvets, who was wounded in the arm.

“I thought I was going to die, and I thought I’d have at least a minute to live,” Philpot said .

Pitoau fled from the scene but was found a month later in Tijuana. Authorities said he had shaved his facial hair and changed his appearance.

Pitoau’s defense attorney said Philpot and his friends had been causing trouble that night and provoked the confrontation. The attorney said the group had been kicked out of a nearby bar for disorderly conduct.

“You intentionally introduced a deadly weapon into this altercation. Without thinking it was going to be a struggle," said Pitoau. “Somebody making a derogatory meaning, even though if he thinks degrading people is funny, if he said it in a joking way, you know he said his little joke. But him saying that and then by me responding to it, then him turning around and to me it’s like, he challenged me, I responded and now he’s responding back. It’s like we’re going to square off or something you know.”

If convicted, Pitoau faces 100 years to life behind bars.