Jury Returns Mixed Verdicts in Firefighter Stabbing Case

A jury on Thursday convicted a man accused of stabbing two San Diego firefighters of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, but acquitted him of the more serious attempted murder charges.

The jury also found Ryan Allen Jones guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and another count of battery related to an assault of MTS officers.

Jones showed no emotion as the verdicts were read on Thursday morning.

Jones is accused of attacking unarmed firefighters Ben Vernon and Alex Wallbrett with a hunting knife at a medical aid call at the Park and Market trolley station on June 24 last year.

The jury deliberated for nearly three days after receiving the case by midday Monday.

Much of the trial focused on body camera footage the prosecution says shows Vernon backing away with his hands up and Jones stepping in to stab him repeatedly. 

Last week, Jones testified he was trying to provide information to firefighters about a patient they were assisting when a fire captain pushed him over a bench, causing Jones to hit his head. When Jones got up, he said he was confused and surrounded by MTS officers who pepper-sprayed him as he tried to flee.

Jones said he had cloudy vision and feared he was about to be beaten, possibly shot, when he pulled out his knife and stabbed Vernon, not knowing who he was attacking. 

The defense’s case has also hinged on their assertion that the firefighters were acting outside the scope of their duties when they pursued Jones, and that they should have waited for police. 

Bahr said video evidence shows Jones fled a safe distance away from the firefighters after their captain shoved him. 

The prosecutor played surveillance video several times for the jury of Jones falling over the bench saying it clearly shows he never hit his head. Schott told the jury if they determine the defendant lied about something significant, like hitting his head, they should consider not believing anything else he said.

Last week, the jury heard heartfelt testimony from those two firefighters who were attacked that day in the line of duty. Wallbrett had rushed to Vernon's aid and Jones then stabbed Wallbrett several times before a fire engineer stopped him. Both said it was not being able to protect each other that was the unbearable part of that day.

Jones will be sentenced April 22.

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