Two men accused of fatally stabbing a Camp Pendleton-based U.S. Marine during a brawl in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter have a history of violent predatory attacks, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Jose Oscar Esqueda, 30, and Jeff Shai Holliday, 24, both of San Diego, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the stabbing of 21-year-old Ryan Evan Harris, a Northern California native assigned to Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Lt. Todd Griffin said.
On Thursday, a prosecutor said that Esqueda and Holliday had a history of violent attacks where they "find unwitting victims, target them, attack them," and said they were involved in two similar attacks last April — one in Pacific Beach and another at a Chula Vista mall.
The prosecutor said the night of the stabbing, the two men targeted a man using his cell phone near Island and Fifth avenues in downtown San Diego; one suspect got the man's attention while the other came up from behind and sucker-punched him.
Harris saw this happening and confronted the suspects, at which point Esqueda stabbed him just below the neck, severing his aorta, the prosecutor said.
When police officers arrived, they found the Marine on the sidewalk, suffering from stab wounds to his upper body.The officer and bystanders tried to help him while paramedics arrived. Despite those efforts, Harris died at the scene.
Harris' friend was also stabbed, and located on J Street and 5th Avenue, about a block away from where Harris was found.
SDPD Homicide Lt. Todd Griffin said the stabbing victims were in the Gaslamp as part of a group of military personnel, but the victim who survived is a civilian.
Esqueda faces charges of murder, attempted murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted he faces 26 to life.
Holliday faces charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery and a probation violation. If convicted he faces 78 years to life because of a prior conviction.
Lawyers for Esqueda and Holliday asked the judge Thursday to release their clients on no bail. The request will be reviewed at a status conference next Thursday.