Former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis testified Thursday that he was attacked by two men as he got out of his car in the garage of his University City home four months ago.
» Sign Up For Breaking News Alerts» Like Us On Facebook» Follow Us On Twitter
Mathis, now 79, testified as a preliminary hearing got underway for Harvey Henry Duson, an ex-con and parolee charged with robbery, burglary, kidnapping for robbery, false imprisonment of an elder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Duson faces 115 years to life in prison if convicted.
Superior Court Judge John Einhorn will decide at the end of the preliminary hearing -- which resumes Friday --- if enough evidence was presented for the 45-year-old Duson to stand trial.
Mathis testified that he returned home about 9 p.m. last Jan. 11 and was knocked down as he got out of his car.
"They were yelling, 'Where's the cash,'" Mathis testified.
Mathis -- who said he was legally carrying a concealed firearm because of two previous break-ins at his home -- said he and one of his attackers struggled over the gun, but the victim couldn't get a clean shot at the assailant.
Mathis, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System Board, said he fired two quick shots into the air in hopes neighbors might here and call 911.
He said he gave up the fight over his gun when one of the attackers hit him hard in the head, with what he thought was the butt of another gun.
Mathis said he was ordered to strip down to his underwear and taken at gunpoint to open a safe in a back bedroom.
The witness said his wife and a neighbor were inside.
Mathis said he struggled to open the walk-in safe and his assailant grew anxious.
"He said, 'Hurry up or I'll shoot,'" Mathis testified.
The victim said his attacker also threatened to "torch the place."
Mathis said he thought the intruders were after his gun collection and was surprised to learn they wanted cash, which he didn't keep in the safe.
He said the intruders put him, his wife and neighbor into a bathroom and left, but not before setting fire to some clothes in the kitchen and to one of the cars in the garage.
Mathis said firefighters arrived to put out the fires.
The victim said the attack happened the day before his 79th birthday.
"Actually, it's the best birthday I've ever had," Mathis told prosecutor Martin Doyle. "I lived to see it."
Mary Mathis who also testified Thursday said she was in the kitchen when she heard her husbands car pull into the garage. Seconds later, she heard a commotion.
"I heard some scuffling, and I heard my husband say, 'Oh my God, oh my God' and I knew something was happening," she told the judge. "Then, I started to run, but I only got a short distance and then I froze, because then I heard a couple of gunshots."
Mary Mathis thought her husband was shot, but said she first felt relieved when she saw him coming through the kitchen door and then she got a better look.
"He had blood streaming down his face, and he didn't have a shirt on and there was a man behind him holding a gun on him," she said.
Mary Mathis said one of the men grabbed her by the arm and threw her to the floor, showing her a switchblade as he warned her not to look at his face.
"And he said, 'If you don't open your safe, Im going to slit your throat,'" she testified.
When the man told her he would drag her back to the bedroom where the couple had a 6-by-10-foot gun vault, Mary Mathis spoke up.
"'I said, 'You're not dragging me anywhere,'" she said. "'I'm going to get up and open the safe for you.'"
She opened the vault but was not able to open the smaller safe inside it, so the armed and masked men ordered her to wait inside a bathroom with the door closed. She defied them again by leaving it open a crack so she could hear what was going on.
Mary Mathis said they then began shouting at her husband.
"'You open that safe or I'm going to shoot you,'" she testified.
Later, she testified that her husband and a neighbor who tried to come to their rescue were forced into the same bathroom and told not to leave.
"I was praying
asking for protection," she testified.
A criminalist also testified about DNA taken from blood and other evidence at the crime scene.
Duson -- who was released from state prison last year after serving half of a 32-year sentence for an armed robbery in Lemon Grove -- was arrested in Arizona in February following a high-speed pursuit, a day after he eluded California law enforcement.
Copyright Do you have more information about this story? Click here to contact usCopyright 2012 by 10News.com. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.