SAN DIEGO (CNS) - One of three San Diego firefighters charged with beating and threatening two brothers outside a Normal Heights bar testified Friday that the alleged victims attacked them as they tried to walk away, not the other way around.
Gregory Econie, 26, Vadid Cisneros, 37, Andrew Brennen, 30, are charged in the Feb. 26 incident.
Econie testified during a preliminary hearing that he, his two off-duty colleagues, and two female friends were exiting the Ould Sod bar when one of the women starting kissing a man on a nearby bench.
Econie said another man, identified as Luis Martinez, walked up and started taking pictures of the couple with his cellphone, commenting on how much money he could make by posting the photos on Facebook.
"I told him, `Hey, stop taking those pictures,"' Econie testified.
Econie said Martinez, a named victim in the case, swore at him and called him a derogatory name.
Econie said Martinez got on his bicycle and was aggressive and verbally abusive and Econie's group walked east on Adams Avenue.
Econie said Martinez got in Cisneros' face and Econie got between them.
Econie said Martinez then lunged at him, but Brennen blocked Martinez from hitting Econie.
Econie said he, Cisneros and Brennen walked south toward his home, when a man identified as Willie Martinez, Luis' brother, jumped off a bicycle and hit him in the face.
Econie said Willie Martinez grabbed him by the throat and bit him in the hand. He said Brennen eventually pushed them apart, and Willie Martinez then repeatedly punched Brennen in the face.
Econie said Willie Martinez finally got off Brennen when Econie elbowed Martinez in the back of the head.
Econie said Willie Martinez then tackled Cisneros, who had been fighting with Luis Martinez.
Econie said he thought Willie Martinez must have been on drugs -- possibly methamphetamine -- because he was so aggressive and had so much energy.
"I thought, this is out of control. This guy won't stop. He's an animal," Econie testified.
Willie Martinez told police after the incident that he had used methamphetamine the day before, according to court testimony.
Econie said a disheveled Willie Martinez dropped his wallet while leaning against a building, and Brennen picked some of its contents off the ground.
The witness said his group resumed walking toward his home when they were stopped by police.
Luis Martinez testified last week that the incident started when Brennen made a derogatory comment about the alleged victim's sexual orientation as he left the bar.
Luis Martinez, 44, said Cisneros approached and told him, "Come here, shake my hand. My friend's cool."
Luis Martinez said he responded, "(Expletive) you. Your friend's an ass----."
Luis Martinez said the defendants pursued him on foot as he rode his bicycle eastbound on Adams Avenue. He said he crossed the street to talk to a friend in his car, where he was jumped from behind and punched all over his body.
As his attackers left, Luis Martinez said he called Willie, his older brother, who convinced him to go home rather than pursue the trio.
Luis Martinez said as he and his brother rode their bicycles south on 34th Street, he was yanked off his bike from behind by Cisneros.
As the two struggled with each other on the ground, Cisneros yelled to Luis Martinez "to let go of his hands so he could beat the crap out of me," he testified.
Luis Martinez said he was knocked unconscious and woke up to see all three defendants kicking, beating and elbowing his brother, who was on all fours.
"I was yelling, Stop, you're going to kill him. It's over. You win," Luis Martinez testified.
Luis Martinez said the defendants told him and his brother that they "will kill us if they saw us in the neighborhood" or area bars.
Luis Martinez said Brennan took his brother's bicycle saying, "Give me that damn bike. It's mine now."
As they walked north of 34th Street, Cisneros kicked Willie Martinez in the buttocks and said "Move it fatso" in Spanish, Luis Martinez testified.
Luis Martinez said Cisneros pushed his brother against a wall and pulled some identification from his wallet and said, "We got you, (expletive). We know where you live."
Luis Martinez said his brother told him Cisneros pulled out a photo of his son and said, "We'll kill your son too."
As they reached Adams Avenue, a man yelled at the defendants to leave the brothers alone, Luis Martinez testified.
Willie Martinez was taken to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Luis Martinez identified the defendants as the alleged attackers after their arrest a short time later.
Defense attorneys said the alleged victims were the aggressors in the case, and the defendants fought back in self-defense.
The defendants remain on duty while the case is pending.
Econie will continue his testimony on Sept. 20. At the end of the preliminary hearing, Judge Frederic Link will decide whether enough evidence was presented for the defendants to proceed to trial on charges of assault, robbery and making threats. Each faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.