A man who was brutally beaten in a parking lot fight outside a country music concert in San Diego’s Chula Vista area spoke of the violent altercation in court Thursday, saying he felt as if his alleged assailants were trying to kill him.
“I ended up on the ground, face-down,” recalled victim Zachary Zander on the stand. “I felt like people were trying to kill me.”
In September 2012, Zander and a group of friends headed to the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista to attend a country music concert featuring singer Jason Aldean.
Prior to the concert, Zander and his friends were tailgating in the parking lot when he got into an altercation with some Marines tailgating nearby.
According to Zander, the confrontation quickly escalated and the group of Marines severely battered him. Zander was beaten so badly, he suffered several broken bones in his face and underwent reconstructive surgery. He was also treated for a broken leg, broken nose and chipped teeth.
One of those Marines, Sgt. Raymond Sharkey, was charged with two felony counts of assault and battery, but pleaded not guilty. On Thursday, more than one year after the beating, Sharkey’s preliminary hearing began in San Diego.
As Zander took the stand and described the incident in detail, Sharkey sat in the courtroom, listening to Zander’s testimony.
Zander recounted how the Marines were allegedly bothering several women in his tailgating group, prompting him to step in and confront the men. He said Sharkey was the first Marine in the group to punch him in the face. Soon enough, others allegedly joined in on the beating.
A short time later, Zander said the men came back and attacked him again – leaving him with fractures all over his face.
“I said, ‘Look at me, look what you’ve done to me. Aren’t you done yet?’ And I just started getting a flurry of hits after that,” Zander recalled. “I couldn’t take them and I fell off the tailgate of the truck.”
“I quickly tried to get up. I was getting hit in the head and noticed there was no way I could get up,” Zander continued. “There was all kinds of weight on my back, as if people were sitting or lying on me, and I just kept getting hit.”
He continued on the witness stand, recounting details of the pain he felt:
“While I was on the ground, I was being hit repeatedly in the head. I felt a sharp pain in my leg. That’s when I assumed someone stomped on my leg – broke it, or kicked it and broke it,” Zander said. “[I] also felt someone’s hand trying to gauge fingers in my eyes; I felt someone's hand go in the side of my mouth and begin trying to turn my cheek to turn my head and expose it."
Zander was the first witness to take the stand at Thursday’s hearing. In cross-examination, Sharkey’s defense attorney asked Zander repeated questions about how much he’d had to drink in the parking lot on the day of the fight, and whether he had ever tried to call for help from security or police during the ordeal.
After the preliminary hearing, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence against Sharkey to send the case to trial.
In a separate civil lawsuit, Zander is suing Live Nation entertainment and Staff Pro for failing to adequately protect guests from alcohol-fueled third party violence.
Meanwhile, country singer Jason Aldean is set to perform at Chula Vista’s Sleep Train Amphitheatre once again this Friday.