WARNING: This story contains details about sexual assault that may be triggering. Reader discretion is advised.
The man accused of holding two Tierrasanta residents hostage during a home invasion and repeatedly sexually assaulting one of the victims while holding her at gunpoint with her own gun appeared in court Friday.
Demetrius Trussell, 40, pleaded not guilty to a total of 18 felony counts including burglary, carjacking, kidnapping, sexual assault, indecent exposure, carjacking, and assault of a police officer.
A judge said Trussell is being held with without bail. A readiness hearing is set for May 3, and a preliminary hearing will be held May 5. Trussell has two prior felonies and is facing more than 200 years to life if convicted, prosecutors said.
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The hostage situation occurred April 9 when the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) responded to a 911 call from a woman who reported that a stranger had broken into her home on Viacha Drive.
SDPD Capt. Rich Freedman said the 53-year-old woman and her elderly father barricaded themselves in an upstairs room, but the suspect eventually broke in. After exposing himself to the residents, the man then sexually assaulted the woman multiple times, police said.
Gruesome details of the alleged assault were presented during Trussell's arraignment on Friday. Deputy District Attorney Meghan Buckner said the suspect was found masturbating in the homeowner's bathroom.
When he was discovered, he followed the victims into their home office where the sexual assault occurred. Buckner said the suspect held the woman at gunpoint with a gun that was discovered in the home and belonged to the victims.
Tierrasanta Home Invasion
When officers arrived at the scene, they heard screams coming from the home, prompting them to break a window to gain access inside.
The department released footage of the dramatic rescue that was captured by officers’ body-worn cameras. In the video, officers could be seen speaking with who they identified as Trussell as the first responders stayed at the bottom of some stairs while the suspect and hostages stayed in a room at the top of the stairs. At that point, the suspect had taken the two residents hostage at gunpoint.
At one point, authorities were able to get the father onto the balcony but the suspect fired at least one bullet toward officers, SDPD said, which prompted an officer to return fire.
An 8-year veteran officer who had climbed onto the next-door neighbor's roof fired at the suspect several times through a window. None of the shots hit the suspect but they did prompt him to surrender to officers, SDPD said.
Police said a stolen white minivan was recovered outside the home. It was believed to be connected to two other break-in attempts within 90 minutes -- on Rueda Drive and La Cuenta Drive.
Buckner said Trussell broke into seven homes prior to the hostage situation and took various items, sometimes while the homeowners were asleep. Other times, the prosecutor said, residents confronted Trussell, including one instance where the defendant pushed a man and stole his car.
SDPD's Homicide Unit was investigating the incident because an officer fired their weapon, which is standard.