Driver accused of trying to pepper-spray deputy - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Driver accused of trying to pepper-spray deputy

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former San Diego County sheriff's detective testified today that he decided to use a carotid restraint on a motorist he had pulled over for reckless driving when the motorist became physically resistive to the detective's attempts to pat him down.
Paul Ward, a 30-year veteran who retired last week, testified during a preliminary hearing for 26-year-old Robert Branch, who is charged with felony resisting an executive officer and attempting to use pepper spray on an officer, along with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and reckless driving.
Ward testified that he was traveling westbound on Interstate 8 at about 5 p.m. last May 4 when a motorist driving a gold car drove at high speeds and passed him on the left in the fast lane, riding on the shoulder of the freeway.  The witness said he lost sight of the gold car but saw it exiting on College Avenue, so he followed the car off the freeway to determine if that was the vehicle that drove recklessly around him.  Ward said the driver of the gold car -- later identified as Branch -- pulled over on a street and parked. Ward said he followed and pulled up behind.
Ward -- who was on duty but dressed in plain clothes and driving an unmarked car -- testified that he showed Branch his badge and identification and asked for his driver's license and registration.
"He was wearing a tactical vest,'' Ward testified, saying that the vest also had a firearm holster.
Ward said Branch acknowledged that he was driving like a "jerk,'' but said he wouldn't comply with the detective's request because he didn't think the detective was on duty.
"I told him I had to pat him down,'' Ward testified. The witness said Branch slapped or pushed his hand away and said ``Don't touch me!''
Ward said he put his hands up to stop Branch from walking away, but Branch pulled out his cell phone and began recording the incident.
"I figured out he had no intention of complying,'' Ward testified.   

Ward said Branch became physically resistive and the former detective put him in a carotid restraint.  The witness said Branch went unconscious, but woke up as Ward started to pat him down.  Ward said Branch tried to run away, but the former detective said he grabbed him by the wrist and eventually put him in another carotid restraint.  The witness said Branch threatened to pepper spray him, but Branch ended up dropping the spray.
"He was telling me he was over it (the incident),'' Ward testified.
Ward said he got Branch to sit on a curb and was able to remove the tactical vest before San Diego police officers arrived.  A man who had witnessed the altercation picked up Ward's 9mm firearm that had fallen out of his ankle holster.
In a separate case being heard in the same court, Branch is charged with making threats and stalking a woman in 2013.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing resumes Monday. At its conclusion, Judge Kenneth So will determine if enough evidence was presented for Branch to stand trial.

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