Former councilman testifies about violent break-in at his Univer - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Former councilman testifies about violent break-in at his University City home

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis testified Thursday that he was attacked by two men as he got out of his car in the garage of his University City home four months ago.

Mathis, now 79, testified as a preliminary hearing got underway for Harvey Henry Duson, an ex-con and parolee charged with robbery, burglary, kidnapping for robbery, false imprisonment of an elder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Duson faces 115 years to life in prison if convicted.

Superior Court Judge John Einhorn will decide at the end of the preliminary hearing -- which resumes Friday --- if enough evidence was presented for the 45-year-old Duson to stand trial.

Mathis testified that he returned home about 9 p.m. last Jan. 11 and was knocked down as he got out of his car.

"They were yelling, 'Where's the cash,' " Mathis testified.

Mathis -- who said he was legally carrying a concealed firearm because of two previous break-ins at his home -- said he and one of his attackers struggled over the gun, but the victim couldn't get a clean shot at the assailant.

Mathis, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System Board, said he fired two quick shots into the air in hopes neighbors might here and call 911.

He said he gave up the fight over his gun when one of the attackers hit him hard in the head, with what he thought was the butt of another gun.

Mathis said he was ordered to strip down to his underwear and taken at gunpoint to open a safe in a back bedroom.

The witness said his wife and a neighbor were inside.

Mathis said he struggled to open the walk-in safe and his assailant grew anxious.

"He said, 'Hurry up or I'll shoot,'" Mathis testified.

The victim said his attacker also threatened to "torch the place."

Mathis said he thought the intruders were after his gun collection and was surprised to learn they wanted cash, which he didn't keep in the safe.

He said the intruders put him, his wife and neighbor into a bathroom and left, but not before setting fire to some clothes in the kitchen and to one of the cars in the garage.

Mathis said firefighters arrived to put out the fires.

The victim said the attack happened the day before his 79th birthday.

"Actually, it's the best birthday I've ever had," Mathis told prosecutor Martin Doyle. "I lived to see it."

A criminalist testified about DNA taken from blood and other evidence at the crime scene.

Duson -- who was released from state prison last year after serving half of a 32-year sentence for an armed robbery in Lemon Grove -- was arrested in Arizona in February following a high-speed pursuit, a day after he eluded California law enforcement.

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