SLO firefighter accused of assault says he acted in self-defense

Shoving led to fight, John Ryan Mason says in police reports filed in court

nwilson@thetribunenews.comAugust 23, 2011 

The San Luis Obispo firefighter accused of knocking a man unconscious and sending him to the hospital during a fight at a June wedding party told police that he was merely protecting himself from the purported victim, who he said shoved him first.

But Jory Brigham, 32, of Los Osos, the purported victim in the case, said John Ryan Mason was the aggressor who threw the first punch as they spoke in the bathroom of a San Luis Obispo bar. And he denied ever putting his hands on Mason.

Details of the investigation of the incident were revealed in reports filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court by the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Mason, 34, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault causing great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury against Brigham. The altercation occurred June 4 at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill on 1865 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo about 11:30 p.m.

Mason is scheduled to appear before Judge Michael Duffy on Sept. 1 for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed toward trial.

After his arrest, he was freed from the San Luis Obispo County Jail on $50,000 bail.

San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick said Mason remains assigned to administrative duties in his fire department position pending further proceedings in the case.

Brigham suffered a broken jaw, nose and cheekbones as a result of the altercation, according to a search warrant filed by police in the case. He was treated at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. Mason was not hurt in the fight, according to police.

Brigham told investigators that he and Mason had recently experienced strained relations over what was described in the report as Mason’s purported infidelity, which led to the fight in the bathroom of the bar.

Brigham and Mason attended the wedding and after-party at the bar with their wives, who are friends, according to the reports.

Brigham told police he tried to squash the tension with Mason earlier in the day, which resulted in part from Brigham posting on Facebook that “it’s amazing how socially acceptable it is to walk out on your family,” the report states.

Brigham said Mason “brought up the Facebook issue and told him people need to mind their own business.” According to Brigham, the fight occurred after he walked into the bathroom and found Mason there.

They argued and then, Brigham said, Mason punched him with a closed fist and Brigham fell backward; Brigham remembered waking up on the floor, according to the report.

Mason told police Brigham had been upset with him over an affair he had with another woman, the report states. That woman wasn’t Brigham’s wife, according to the report, but the purported victim acted as though it was his spouse involved.

Mason told police that Brigham got into his personal space to the extent he could smell his breath and Brigham poked his finger in Mason’s chest several times before shoving him.

Feeling that he needed to protect himself, Mason told police, he struck Brigham once in the face and Brigham fell to the ground and then Mason punched him a couple more times.

Asked why he didn’t leave the bathroom, Mason said he couldn’t once the incident became physical because Brigham came after him, pushing him.

Mason received a call from an investigator the night of the incident, but he didn’t report what happened until the next morning when he called his chief, who advised him he needed to go to the police department.

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