SAN DIEGO – A man whose altercation with four off-duty San Diego police officers in the parking lot of a Grantville bar drew attention from local activists alleging excessive force pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of a loaded firearm and cocaine.
The charges against Jonathan Felix, 29, stemmed from the Nov. 7 altercation outside McGregor’s Grill and Ale House, a case that generated substantial public interest regarding the use of police force rather than the felony case.
Felix had a loaded gun and cocaine on him when he encountered the off-duty cops just before 2 a.m. He was accused but never charged with pointing the gun at the officers, prompting them to tackle him to the ground and strike him several times until they were able to seize the pistol, according to prosecutors.
The blows rendered Felix unconscious, and left him with a fractured pelvis, fractured hand and cuts and bruising to his head, while one of the officers testified that he broke his hand punching the defendant. Felix, who had faced a potential four-year prison sentence if his case had gone to trial, is set to return to court May 16, at which time he’s expected to be sentenced to probation.
At a preliminary hearing in February, Officer Anthony Duncan testified that after he and other 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 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.
Along with Duncan, the altercation included fellow San Diego officers Nicholas Dabbaghian, Frank Bigler and Ross Bainbridge.