The public is getting its first look at surveillance video showing a violent confrontation between an armed felon and four armed -- and allegedly drunk -- off-duty officers at a Grantville bar last November.
The incident is the basis for a civil lawsuit filed against the city and the four San Diego Police Department officers by the fifth man involved, Jonathan Felix, and his attorney.
Footage shows the moment the officers approach Felix who brandished a weapon while sitting on his bicycle in between two cars in the parking lot of McGregor’s Ale House on San Diego Mission Road in the early hours of Nov. 7.
Felix begins to backpedal into the roadway and all four officers immediately draw their guns and point them at him.
Seconds later, one of the officers kicks Felix in the chest. 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.
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 property.
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.”
Felix’s attorney, Doug Gilliland, said his client was worried the four men were going to steal belongings he left in his car in the parking lot. Felix was unaware they were officers.
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.
“What the officers said was that Jonathan pulled a gun and pointed it at all of them and we know if he did that he’d be dead right now. He’d be dead for parking his car in this parking lot next to four drunk officers,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland says he has receipts from the bar that show how much the officers drank that night.
Two weeks after the incident, Felix was in court facing weapon, ammunition and cocaine possession charges. Some of Felix's supporters say those charges are an effort by law enforcement to cover up wrongdoing by the officers who were hanging out after hours at the bar.
”This was a botched cover-up,” said Tasha Williamson, a police critic and member of the activist group Building Justice. “These officers, drinking, with weapons on them, should have called on-duty patrol officers to the scene.”
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 following a Friday news conference where the surveillance video was released.
“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.”
NBC 7 has asked SDPD about its policy regarding off-duty officers, when they carry weapons, and any restrictions on drinking when armed, but the department has not answered.