SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Three San Diego firefighters accused of beating and robbing two brothers outside a Normal Heights bar pleaded not guilty Friday to charges including robbery, assault and making a criminal threat.
Vadid Cisneros, 37, Andrew Brennan, 29, and Gregory Econie, 26, allegedly attacked the siblings, ages 44 and 46, following an exchange of words near the intersection of Adams Avenue and 34th Street shortly after 2 a.m. on Feb. 26, according to San Diego police.
The firefighters were off-duty at the time.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said the alleged victims were leaving the Ould Sod bar when one of the defendants made a derogatory comment about the victim's sexual orientation.
Runyon said a man identified as Luis M. was at the bar that night settling a tab from the night before.
As he was leaving, Luis got into a verbal altercation with the defendants, who followed him to another location and assaulted him, Runyon alleged.
After the defendants left, Luis called his brother, identified as Willie, and Willie came to the location, Runyon said.
The two brothers ran into the three defendants about a block-and-a-half away and a fight ensued, the prosecutor said.
"During that fight, the three defendants attacked and inflicted great bodily injury on Willie," the prosecutor said.
As the brothers tried to leave the area, the defendants again attacked Willie, taking his wallet and some photographs, Runyon said.
The defendants told Willie that if he contacted law enforcement about the fight, he would be hurt, according to the prosecutor.
A police officer in the area saw Econie put something on the ground and later officers recovered some photographs, cash and a bank card taken from the victim, Runyon said.
Defense attorneys said the alleged victims were the aggressors in the case and the defendants fought back in self-defense.
"It's going to be our position, and there's credible evidence to support it, that these guys (the alleged victims) came and sought these guys out," said Jan Ronis, the attorney for Econie. "And in fact all three of these men (the defendants) were injured pretty significantly."
"One of them was bitten," said Gretchen von Helms, the attorney for Brennan.
"Our position is they (the defendants) were not the aggressors and they were defending themselves so, they're just like any other citizen defending themselves in a fight," said Guadalupe Valencia, the attorney for Cisneros.
Econie has been a firefighter for five years, Brennan for 10 and Cisneros, a captain, for 12 years, their attorneys said.
The defendants -- who remain on duty while the case is pending -- are free on their own recognizance. They originally posted $100,000 bail after their arrests.
Besides robbery, assault and making threats, they are also charged with threatening or intimidating witnesses.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to nine years in prison, Runyon said.
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