SLO firefighter claims self-defense in assault trial

Man on trial for assault told detective that the other guy provoked him

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comSeptember 14, 2012 

An off-duty firefighter told a detective he was poked and shoved at a San Luis Obispo bar before he defended himself, knocking his aggressor unconscious with a punch and three elbow blows to the face, according to testimony Friday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

During the felony trial of John Ryan Mason, a 35-year-old employee of the San Luis Obispo Fire Department, the prosecution played jurors a video of the interview with Sue Dewbre, a now-retired detective with the San Luis Obispo Police Department. In that interview, Mason said he fought until Jory Brigham couldn’t fight back.

“He looked like he was unconscious for a second, and then it looked like he had woken up,” Mason said during the interview. “I am a paramedic, so I’m thinking … ‘Okay, is this guy, you know, is he breathing and what not?’ And he was. He was snoring for a little bit.”

Mason and Brigham had both attended a wedding for a mutual friend June 4, 2011, and later wound up at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill in San Luis Obispo. While they weren’t close friends, their wives were. And the two had previously exchanged words over Mason’s marital problems.

Brigham testified he was trying to smooth things over between the two in the bar’s restroom. But Mason told police Brigham was drunk, shouting and physically aggressive.

“I said, ‘Hey … you’re drunk,’ ” Mason told Dewbre. “ ‘I don’t wanna do this, and you’re getting in my personal space and just, you know — stop.’ ”

Brigham then started poking him in the chest, Mason said — about 30 times — and then “he gave me a really big shove and came after me.”

In earlier court testimony Thursday, Robert Petterson, who was in the restroom when the two were arguing, said Brigham did not appear aggressive, telling Mason, “Save this for later. Let’s do this another time.”

Mason, he added, appeared “puffed up” and aggressive.

Petterson left the restroom before a physical altercation began. Another bar patron, Scott Debernardi, entered to see the two wrestling, then left the restroom to alert bar employees.

Mason said that during the fight, he punched Brigham once under the nose, knocking him to the ground. As they continued to fight, he said, he elbowed Brigham three times — until he could see that Brigham was knocked out. “And then it was over,” he said.

Mason said he exited the restroom, then told his wife they needed to leave because he feared Brigham’s friends would retaliate. By the time Debernardi returned to the restroom, Brigham was on the floor, confused and bloody.

“It looked like there was blood in his eyes, so that worried me,” he testified. “And it looked like there was some major facial damage.”

Brigham suffered a broken nose, cheek bones and jaw.

Mason was uninjured.

“He attacked me, and I had nothing else to do but defend myself,” Mason said. “And I got the better of him.”

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