SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man whose altercation with four off-duty San Diego police officers in the parking lot of a Grantville bar drew attention from local activists alleging excessive force was sentenced Thursday to a three year probation term in connection with cocaine and firearm possession, which includes 90 days in jail and nine months to be served in a work furlough program.
Jonathan Felix, 29, pleaded guilty last month to possession of a loaded firearm and cocaine, in connection with the Nov. 7, 2018, altercation outside McGregor's Grill and Ale House just before 2 a.m.
The case generated substantial public interest regarding the use of police force rather than for the felony case, in which Felix was accused but never charged with pointing the gun at the officers, prompting them to tackle him to the ground and strike him several times until they were able to seize the pistol, according to prosecutors.
The blows rendered Felix unconscious, and left him with a fractured pelvis, fractured hand and cuts and bruising to his head, while one of the officers testified that he broke his hand punching the defendant.
In addition to possessing cocaine, Felix was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to theft and drug-related convictions out of Arizona, according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon.
Following his 90 days in custody, Felix will continue working during the day at Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood in the Gaslamp Quarter, where he was employed at the time of his arrest. San Diego Superior Court Judge Polly H. Shamoon imposed a suspended four-year prison sentence, meaning Felix could head to prison if he violates the terms of his probation.
At a preliminary hearing in February, Officer Anthony Duncan testified that after he and other officers departed McGregor's, they noticed Felix leaving the premises and returning to the parking lot on several separate occasions, both in his Dodge Durango and on a bicycle. He said the officers were concerned that Felix was "casing" vehicles, possibly to break into or steal cars.
Felix was exhibiting "odd behavior" and "something didn't feel right (about him)," Duncan said.
Officer Jose Rodriguez, who was at the bar with the other men but left before the altercation with Felix, testified that he also felt Felix was looking into vehicles parked in the lot.
Despite their concerns, none of the officers called for assistance from on-duty law enforcement until after they restrained Felix, according to Duncan.
Duncan said that he approached Felix, at which point the defendant produced a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and pointed it at him, prompting all four officers to draw firearms on Felix.
Surveillance footage from the parking lot of the business captured the physical altercation between the men, but not the purported standoff, which was blocked from view by a parked car. The defendant, who was sitting on his bicycle at the time, backpedaled away from the men, who followed and tackled him to the ground, according to surveillance footage.
Felix told investigators after being arrested that he believed the group of men, who he said never identified themselves as law enforcement officers that night, may have been casing his Durango or looking to start trouble.
Defense attorney Alicia Freeze argued that her client drew his gun out of concern for his safety, but denied that he ever pointed the weapon at the group. Speaking with reporters outside court following the sentencing hearing, she said she felt the officers used "unlawful force" in subduing Felix.
Runyon reiterated outside court that Felix pointed a gun at the officers, "ignored several commands" to drop his gun, and "did not give up the gun immediately" even after being taken to the ground.
Along with Duncan, the altercation included fellow San Diego officers Nicholas Dabbaghian, Frank Bigler and Ross Bainbridge.