SAN DIEGO — A man who was beaten by four off-duty San Diego police officers in the parking lot of a Grantville bar last fall pointed a loaded gun at the group, one of the officers testified Wednesday, while a defense attorney alleged that the defendant only produced the firearm in self-defense.
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Jonathan Felix, who was ordered by San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth K. So to stand trial on firearm and drug possession charges stemming from the altercation that occurred outside McGregor’s Grill just before 2 a.m. on Nov. 7.
Officer Anthony Duncan testified that after the officers departed McGregor’s, they noticed Felix leaving the premises and returning to the parking lot on several separate occasions, both in his Dodge Durango and on a bicycle. He said the officers were concerned that Felix was “casing” vehicles, possibly to break into or steal cars.
Felix, 29, was exhibiting “odd behavior” and “something didn’t feel right (about him),” Duncan said.
Officer Jose Rodriguez, who was at the bar with the other men, but left before the altercation with Felix, testified that he also felt Felix was looking into vehicles parked in the lot.
Despite their concerns, none of the officers called for assistance from on-duty law enforcement until after they restrained Felix, according to Duncan.
Duncan said that he approached Felix, at which point the defendant produced a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and pointed it at him, prompting all four officers to draw firearms on Felix.
Surveillance footage from the parking lot of the business captured the physical altercation between the men, but not the purported standoff.
Felix told investigators after being arrested that he believed the group of men, who never identified themselves as law enforcement officers that night, may have been casing his Durango or looking to start trouble.
Defense attorney Alicia Freeze argued that her client drew his gun out of concern for his safety, but denied that he ever pointed the weapon at the group.
The defendant, who was sitting on his bicycle at the time, backpedaled away from the men, who followed and tackled him to the ground, according to surveillance footage.
Duncan testified that even while restrained on the ground, Felix continued holding onto the gun and was struggling with the officers, prompting them to strike him several times until they were able to seize the pistol, which Duncan alleged was loaded, with a round chambered.
The blows rendered Felix unconscious, and left him with a fractured pelvis, fractured hand, and cuts and bruising to his head, while Duncan testified that he broke his right hand punching Felix.
Duncan was were fellow San Diego officers Nicholas Dabbaghian, Frank Bigler and Ross Bainbridge that night.
Local activists have characterized the incident as an example of police brutality, describing the off-duty cops as drunk and out of control, while Freeze called it “a brutal attack” while speaking with reporters outside the courtroom.
Felix, who is due back in court March 27 for a readiness conference, faces one felony count each of possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition and possession of a controlled substance while armed with a firearm and a misdemeanor count of possession of controlled substances.