San Diego

‘Lucky to Be Alive': Homeless Victim Brutally Attacked Recalls Horrors of That Morning

His alleged attacker is eligible for the death penalty, which the victim says he would support if the District Attorney decides to pursue it

In the early morning hours of June 15, 2016, Michael Papadelis was asleep under a bridge at the corner of 19th and C Street in San Diego, California.

He remembers a "pair of eyes" looking down on him, he said. And then it happened.

"I was being hit, and all I can remember is I look up and I saw a pair of eyes," said Papadelis. "And I saw something silver coming down on me, so I kind of sat up and put my arms up to try to protect myself."

He remembers screaming for help as blood poured from his head.

"Somebody help me, help me, somebody help me. And eventually I heard somebody say 'what happened to you,'" said Papdelis.

Papadelis, 56, was allegedly attacked by the man now suspected of at least 12 assaults on homeless and elderly people.

Jon David Guerrero, 40, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to felony charges that include murder, arson and assault. He ultimately could face the death penalty.

Papadelis survived the brutal attack, but is now blind in his right eye. Doctors had to rebuild his crushed eye orbit. He now has a plate around his eye orbit, and now has trouble seeing out of his left eye.

He considers himself lucky to be alive, based on the severity of attacks on Guerrero’s other alleged victims.

“I could have been struck in the head, too, with a spike. I’m lucky," said Papadelis. "He attacked me with a hammer, a mallet, whatever, and then he moved on. So I’m lucky to be alive."

Papadelis also said a week before the attack, he remembers a man with a bicycle standing over him as he slept in the same spot under the bridge. He believes it was the same man who would return a week later.

"And I woke up and there was a man with a bicycle standing over me. As soon as I woke up and looked at him, he walked off," Papadelis said.

His perspective on the attack might surprise many people.

Papadelis said he harbors no anger toward his attacker, and besides his physical injuries, he has no lingering psychological issues.

"I’ve heard that people that go through violent assaults like I did suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, but I’ve had no bad dreams, no depression, no suicidal thoughts, or anything like that. I’m healed pretty good," said Papadelis.

Papadelis was in court for Guerrero’s arraignment and plans to attend as many future court dates as possible. Guerrero’s preliminary hearing is scheduled on July 11. Papadelis is expected to testify and says he wants to see justice.

"He obviously can’t be on the streets because he’s a danger to other people. So the best thing is he’ll be off the streets," said Papdelis.

Guerrero’s crimes make him eligible for the death penalty, which Papadelis said he favors, should the District Attorney decide to pursue it.

"He was vicious. He smashed them. He put a spike through their head and chest. He set them on fire. For the viciousness of the crimes against those people that were sleeping, I believe, if its out there, I agree with the death penalty," Papadelis said.

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