Self defense argued in firefighter stabbing case

Posted at 3:32 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 22:20:21-04
SAN DIEGO -- A man with a prior conviction for battery on a peace officer stabbed two San Diego firefighters last year at a trolley stop in a "brazen'' attack, a prosecutor said Monday, but the defendant's attorney said his client acted in self-defense after a fire captain pushed him over a bench.
Ryan Allen Jones, 35, is charged with two counts each of attempted murder of a firefighter, assault with a deadly weapon and battery for the alleged attack on firefighters Ben Vernon and Alex Wallbrett and two transit
security officers last June 24.
"He (the defendant) was shoved. He wasn't shot. He wasn't stabbed. He wasn't even punched,'' Deputy District Attorney Steven Schott said in his closing argument.
The prosecutor alleged Jones attacked the firefighters in a "brazen attack that was nothing short of pure violence.''
Schott called Jones a "violent man who chose to pull out a knife and stab two firefighters.''
The prosecutor said Vernon and Wallbrett were among several firefighters who responded to a call about 4 p.m. reporting a sick and drunk man at the trolley station in the 500 block of Park Boulevard.
Schott said Jones refused orders to step away from the scene, then attacked transit officers before stabbing the two firefighters.
The prosecutor said Vernon jumped over a rail to assist the transit officers and was stabbed twice with a 3-inch pocket knife, suffering a punctured lung.
The defendant also tried to stab Vernon in the head but missed, according to the prosecutor, who alleged that Jones stabbed Wallbrett multiple times.
A fire captain tripped as he pushed the defendant over a concrete bench, prompting Jones to declare, "I will kill you all,'' according to the prosecutor.
Vernon testified during a daylong preliminary hearing last year that Jones was helpful at first, saying the sick and drunk man had been yelling about mixing his medicines before a 911 call was made.
Vernon said he was tending to the drunk man when he saw Jones run into two transit security officers, sending all three over a rail. Vernon said he jumped over the rail when he saw Jones punching one of the officers.
The firefighter said he saw Jones reach into his back pocket and before he knew it, he was stabbed twice.
Transit security officers ended the assault by pulling the 6-foot-3, 210-pound assailant off the victims and dousing him with pepper spray. The guards then held Jones until police arrived.
Defense attorney Thomas Barr said Jones was waiting at the trolley stop when he noticed a confrontation between a transit officer and the drunk man. Barr said Jones was trying to help and keep the situation calm when fire Capt. Steven Michaels pushed him over a bench, forcing Jones to defend himself.
"Mr. Jones was acting as a good Samaritan,'' Barr told the jury.
Barr said Jones wasn't encroaching on the firefighters until Michaels called him over and incited the incident.
Barr said Michaels -- who faces allegations that he punched his pregnant wife and kicked down the door of a girlfriend -- has a temper "that got the best of him.''
The defense attorney said Jones was thrown over a rail, hit his head and was blinded by pepper spray.
Jones felt in danger and pulled out a knife in the six-on-one melee and thought, "I don't want to be another statistic,'' Barr told the jury.
Barr said Michaels didn't follow his duties and the firefighters who were injured "had a duty to stand back.''
"This is a case of perfect self-defense,'' Barr said.