SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 19-year-old accused in the fatal beating of a 56- year-old man near a pedestrian bridge behind Petco Park was ordered Friday to stand trial on a murder charge, though a torture count was dismissed by a judge.
Dominick Wells is accused in the Nov. 18, 2018, beating of Edward Starland, who was left comatose following the attack allegedly perpetrated by Wells and four juveniles. The juveniles -- two girls and two boys -- face unspecified charges in an ongoing juvenile court case.
Witnesses said Starland had been fighting with a group of young people the afternoon of Nov. 18 before he was thrown down and beaten. When witnesses started yelling at the attackers to stop, they fled east on Imperial Avenue, police said.
Starland never regained consciousness and was placed on life support. He died Dec. 3 at Scripps Mercy hospital.
A cell phone video recorded by a bystander was shown during Wells' preliminary hearing and captures Starland, Wells and the juveniles exchanging words, none of which can be heard in the video. At some point, both men grab objects to seemingly defend themselves. Wells picks up a broomstick, while Starland lifts a bicycle over his head.
Starland later tosses the bike to the ground, and is then knocked down by Wells and the juveniles, who begin punching and kicking him as he's on the sidewalk.
Wells' attorney, Stewart Dadmun, argued that Starland was the aggressor. The attorney said Starland made lewd comments to a 14-year-old girl in Wells' group, then threatened Wells and the others with violence, including lifting the bicycle into the air with the intention of dropping it onto Wells' head.
Dadmun argued that Wells only wanted Starland to leave them alone and that the victim had been harassing them for some time prior to the events shown in the video.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb argued that self-defense did not apply because Wells advanced upon Starland to knock him to the ground. She noted that after Starland tosses the bike to the ground, he appears to back up a few steps before being attacked.
A medical examiner testified that Starland's death was the result of a heart attack, which could have been caused by stress or trauma from the fight. He also suffered from cardiac disease, the examiner testified, which Dadmun argued made it unclear whether the heart attack could be definitely stated as a result of the altercation with Wells.
Superior Court Judge Yvonne Campos said "both adults played a role in this."
Though she found insufficient evidence to hold Wells on the torture count, Campos said she could not overlook the nature of what ensued after Starland was taken to the ground.
"Once the victim was down on the ground, the continuing rampage against him is not something I can set aside," the judge said.
Wells remains held on $1 million bail and is due to return to court May 23 for a Superior Court arraignment.