The man accused of knocking a man unconscious with a wrench outside a 7-Eleven in the Rolando neighborhood, leaving the victim critically injured and leading police on an hours-long suspect search, pleaded not guilty to assault charges Friday.
John Patch, 26, was formally charged with assault with a deadly weapon with an allegation for causing great bodily injury.
Neighbors are identifying George Almestar of El Cajon as the victim. Almestar is in a coma on life support as a result of the alleged attack, according to Deputy District Attorney Mar Naoom.
If Almestar’s injuries worsen, new charges could be filed, Naoom said.
The attack happened a quarter mile from the victim’s home at a 7-Eleven on El Cajon Boulevard Tuesday at around 4 a.m., Naoom said. Patch, who had active warrants at the time, ran away after the attack and was arrested 12 hours later, according to Naoom.
“The defendant was at warrant status which means he had a warrant out for his arrest, two of them in fact, for two open cases on the date of the incident," Naoom said.
Patch and Almestar got in an altercation shortly before Patch hit Almestar across the head with a wrench and knocked him out instantly, according to witnesses.
A witness ran inside the store and alerted the clerk who then called 911.
A 911 dispatcher gave the clerk CPR instructions over the phone so the clerk could help the victim until first responders got there, according to SDPD Sgt. Matt Botkin.
Alexander Finber, Almestar’s neighbor, said the police were knocking on Almestar’s door and his own after the attack.
“It was two police officers and they were like, ‘We're looking for George. We need to make sure he lives across the street. Does he live alone? Does he have a family?’ Just asking too many questions and I was just answering as truthfully and honestly," said Finber, who also said Almestar lives with his wife and children. He described Almestar as friendly.
Patch’s bail is set at $500,000. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.