Two young adults suspected of brutally beating a teenager inside a Chula Vista restaurant headed to court Thursday, as arraignments begin for the half-dozen suspects tied to the case.
Kent Pasunting, 18, and Aldrin Uy, 19, were the first in the group of suspects to be arraigned. On Monday, four juvenile suspects linked to the victim's beating are due in juvenile court.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jack Yeh told NBC 7 Pasunting is facing three charges in connection with the case: assault with a potentially deadly weapon, assault causing bodily injury and battery causing serious injuries. Yeh said Uy is facing two charges: assault causing bodily injury and battery causing serious injuries.
Both Pasunting and Uy pleaded not guilty to all charges.
They were each ordered to stay away from the victim – both in person and on social media – and bail for each was set at $100,000. Pasunting and Uy will both appear in court again on April 25; their preliminary hearings were set for May 1.
Pasunting, Uy and the four minor-aged suspects were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of participating in the April 11 attack of a 16-year-old boy at Cotixan Mexican and Seafood on East Palomar Street, the Chula Vista Police Department said Wednesday.
All six suspects are facing charges of robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.
Police said the juveniles, ages 15 to 17, were students at Morse High School and have been suspended as a result of the incident, which was caught on video and circulated on social media. They were in custody to be transported to San Diego County Juvenile Hall, according to CVPD.
Pasunting and Uy attended Mark Twain High School which is an alternative/continuation high school located on the campus of Morse High School, police said.
In a video that circulated on social media over the weekend, a group can be seen punching, kicking and, at one point, throwing a chair onto the teenager's head. As he fell to the floor, the group continued to beat him.
Investigators believe the teenager was attacked in connection with an ongoing argument between the boy and one of the juveniles arrested.
"The dispute began last month when the victim and suspect got into a heated exchange on social media over comments made to one of the victim’s friends," CVPD said in a Facebook post.
The victim, Paul Martin, said he was coming to the defense of a bullying victim and came forward Wednesday to describe the encounter to a large crowd of supporters.
"I thought I was going to be dead any second. I thought I was going to pass out and they were going to keep on kicking me 'til I stopped breathing," Martin said. "It was scary but I'm just glad it's over."
As Martin shared his anti-bullying message, locals, including employees of a nearby El Pollo Grill restaurant, came to the teenager's defense; the restaurant's employees wore shirts that read "EPD Says No To Bullying."
The Cotixan Mexican and Seafood Restaurant where Martin was beaten put a large banner at the entrance that read: "Cotixan Chula Vista and its employees strongly condemn the actions that happened here on Thursday April 11th. We wish the Martin-Cruz family the best in these bad times and we offer our unconditional assistance to the family and police in any way we can."
The owner of the restaurant has expressed his concern over the incident and said he wants to make sure something like this never happens again inside his business.
Yeh said the investigation is ongoing. The Deputy DA said the video that captured the fight inside the restaurant is being used as evidence. Still, anyone with more information on the case should report those details to police, Yeh said.
"Our goal is to always seek justice and we want anyone to come forward," he added.
NBC 7 reached out to the families and friends of Pasunting and Uy in court Thursday, but they declined to comment on the case.