A preliminary hearing began Thursday for a bouncer charged in the death of a man he allegedly knocked to the ground outside a bar in Oceanside.
Derrick Belser, 40, is accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old Mark Girard Jr.
According to Oceanside police, Belser and Girard were involved in a fight at the rear entrance of the Fire Water Saloon just after 2 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2014.
Belser allegedly knocked Girard down, causing him to hit his head on the ground. Girard was found by police unconscious at an apartment about three blocks away from the bar.
He was taken to a hospital where he died two days later.
Police issued a plea for information on the fight on Jan. 1, 2015. An arrest warrant was issued for Belser and he turned himself in shortly thereafter. The bouncer pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, assault and battery charges and bailed out of jail.
At Belser’s preliminary hearing Thursday two witnesses took the stand, including the victim’s girlfriend and one of Girard’s close friends.
Both witnesses said they went out with Girard on the night he was knocked to the ground outside of that Oceanside bar.
Girlfriend Cheyenne Hurley had been living with Girard and said she went out with him and two friends for a walk at Oceanside Harbor. During the outing, Hurley said the group stopped at Del Taco and drank beers. The men also bought tequila at a liquor store and drank under a freeway underpass, according to Hurley.
At around 10 p.m., she said the group returned to her and Girard’s apartment. She went to sleep and the others decided they were going out again.
Hurley said Girard woke her up around 3 a.m. and showed her a bump on the back of his head and a black eye sustained in the fight with Belser.
“[The bump] was really big. I asked him if he wanted to go to the doctor,” she testified.
Hurley later went to work. When she got home that evening, she said Girard was still in bed. When she checked on him, he wasn’t breathing, she recalled on the stand.
She said his face was pale and there was blood in their bed. She called 911 and Girard was taken to a hospital where he died a couple of days later.
Girard’s friend Zachary Fonseca-Miller also took the stand Thursday. He recounted the group’s outing, saying they had been drinking the night of the incident.
Belser’s defense attorney said the group made multiple stops that night and had consumed a lot of alcohol before encountering Belser at the backdoor of the bar at 2 a.m., after closing time.
Prosecutors allege Belser followed Girard and his two friends outside the bar that night, punching two of them following an argument.
However, the defense has given a much different account of what happened, arguing that the men were repeatedly told to leave the bar after it closed at 2 a.m. The men left, but Belser spotted them allegedly “hovering” at the rear entrance.
When Belser confronted them, they allegedly became hostile, according to the defense attorney.
That narrative, however, does not fit with how family members have described Girard. His father told NBC 7 earlier this year that his son was an avid surfer with a passion for habitat restoration.
The father called the incident “a really senseless act of violence.”
In late January, a second alleged victim came forward accusing Belser of violently beating him at the Fire Water Saloon just two weeks before Girard's death.