A felon accused of pulling a gun on four allegedly drunk off-duty San Diego police officers outside a Grantville bar, leading to a violent confrontation caught on camera, will stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Jonathan Felix is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felon in possession of ammunition, and a felon in possession of both ammunition and a controlled substance at the same time.
However, as Felix' attorney Doug Gilliland notes, Felix was not charged with brandishing a weapon or for assault with a deadly weapon.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred when four off-duty officers approached Felix in the parking lot of McGregor’s Ale House on San Diego Mission Road in the early hours of Nov. 7, 2018.
Felix pulled out a gun as the men approached him but Gilliland said it only happened because Felix was unaware the men were SDPD officers and he thought the men were following him to steal his property.
SDPD officer Anthony Duncan, one of the officers involved in the altercation, was asked on Wednesday to detail the encounter as surveillance video captured by a camera at a neighboring business played.
The footage, first released to the public by SDPD in January, shows the moment the officers approach Felix who brandished a weapon while sitting on his bicycle in between two cars. Felix begins to backpedal into the roadway and all four officers immediately draw their guns and point them at him.
"He has his gun out and we have our guns out and I'm giving commands to drop his gun," Officer 1 said when asked to describe the moment in the tape.
Duncan testified that the four officers did not identify themselves as police but they did command Felix to drop his weapon.
Seconds later, one of the officers kicks Felix in the chest, the video showed. He then rolls forward on his bike as officers try and grab him and eventually tackle him to the ground.
The officers can be seen throwing several punches as the five men are sprawled on the ground. Duncan said for several seconds as the five men wrestled on the ground, Felix refused to drop his weapon.
Another portion of video shows the officers with Felix pinned to the ground underneath them as an SDPD patrol car arrives.
Prosecutor Michael Runyon said the officers noticed Felix leaving and returning several times from the parking lot, and acting as if he might steal a vehicle from the area.
Runyon said the officers decided to “contact (Felix) to figure out what was going on, and (be sure) there weren’t any issues or problems.”
An attorney for Felix' said it is their position that the officers were acting as government officials, therefore the gun and drugs found on Felix were warrantlessly obtained evidence that should not be used.
According to Gilliland, Felix felt threatened and pulled out a gun and pointed it at the ground. Runyon argues Felix pointed his weapon at the officers.
Felix spent time in an Arizona prison about ten years ago for what his defense attorney says were theft charges.
The fact that Felix was not charged with assault or brandishing a weapon has been a point of contention among Felix supporters who say the charges are an effort by law enforcement to cover up wrongdoing by the officers who were hanging out after hours at the bar.
The prosecutor did not want to comment ab0ut why the other charges were not filed until the case is over.
On Wednesday, several advocates gathered at the courthouse to call for charges against Felix to be dropped.
The incident is also the basis for a civil lawsuit filed against the city and the four SDPD officers by Felix and his attorney.
The judge did not drop the charges and instead ruled Felix' trial would move forward. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
According to SDPD, three of the four officers returned to duty after the incident. The fourth officer was injured and returned to light duty at the time. The department has not identified the four officers involved, stating they were the “victims of a crime.”
The department issued the following statement in regards to the incident:
“The San Diego Police Department submitted a criminal case to the District Attorney’s Office regarding this incident, in which Mr. Felix pulled a gun on four off-duty police officers. He has been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, and possession of a controlled substance. Mr. Felix is entitled to the presumption of innocence and the full facts of this case will be litigated as the criminal case proceeds.
As in any situation where there are allegations of misconduct, the San Diego Police Department has initiated an internal investigation. If found, any misconduct will be handled accordingly."