San Diego

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Assaulting El Cajon Police Officer

When Cook began speaking at one point, his public defender quickly cut off his microphone

A man pleaded not guilty Thursday to assaulting an El Cajon police officer responding to a petty theft call on Fletcher Parkway.

The defendant tried to speak at one point during the arraignment, but his public defender David Thompson cut off his microphone in a lightning-quick move.

"Sir, just let Mr. Thompson do your talking," said Judge Daniel Goldstein.

Daniel Cook, 42, faces five felony counts of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest with force causing great bodily injury, robbery, possession of methamphetamine and being under the influence of that drug.

Cook was orginally arrested and charged with attempted murder. After reviewing the case, the District Attorney has formally charged him with assault on a police officer instead.

His bail was set at $500,000. Prosecutor Jeff Lazar said the bail was higher than the scheduled amount for these crimes.

This term was influenced by the injuries as well as his prior criminal history, which includes an assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats and a robbery conviction, said Lazar.

On Wednesday, the arraignment was postponed when Cook refused to come out of his county jail cell. He was brought to court Thursday morning without further incidents.

In past cases where defendants have refused to show up, the judge has the final discretion. But the San Diego County Sheriff's (SDSO) department said that use of force is a last resort.

"It's always our goal to use the least amount of force as possible," said SDSO spokesperson Ryan Keim. "That's for the safety of our inmate, as well as staff. So if we can diffuse the situation, talk to the inmate, explain the process and peacefully bring him out to court, that's always our policy."

At the time of the alleged assault, Cook was a suspect in a nearby robbery case at the Dollar Tree down the street. 

Cook started attacking an El Cajon police officer when confronted about the suspected theft. He repeatedly punched the officer in the face, knocking him to the ground.

Even when the officer, a 28-year veteran of the department, fell to the floor, Cook continued to attack him, said witnesses. After beating the officer, Cook fled the scene.

A Good Samaritan alerted police to the crime, grabbing the officer's walkie talkie and shouting for help.

Officers later apprehended Cook and he was booked into San Diego County Jail. The officer involved suffered serious head trauma and remains in the hospital.

Cook's readiness hearing is set for July 26 and his preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 2. If convicted, Cook faces 62 years to life in prison.

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