SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who used his girlfriend's car to run down three people "like bowling balls" after getting into a fight with a group in Pacific Beach, leaving one of the victims in a coma for nearly a month, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in state prison.
Omar Anthony Gutierrez, 24, pleaded guilty in February to attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Deputy District Attorney David McNees said Gutierrez was attacked in the early morning hours last Aug. 5 and became enraged. After the fight, Gutierrez and his girlfriend went back to her car, and he drove off and pulled over in the 900 block of Garnet Avenue, essentially waiting for the people who were involved in the altercation to cross the street.
Once they did, Gutierrez ran them over "like bowling balls," seriously injuring two people - including San Diego Chargers intern J'ron Erby - and leaving a third with a broken nose and road rash, McNees said.
Two others were able to jump out of the way and were not hurt, the prosecutor said. Erby, an all-conference cornerback in 2015, was in a coma for 27 days.
A surveillance camera captured images of Gutierrez, his girlfriend and the involved vehicle.
McNees said there was evidence that the windshield and the hood of the suspect's car had been changed, and there were efforts to hide the vehicle. Gutierrez was arrested a few weeks later, on Sept. 27.
Erby, who graduated college in Nebraska with a degree in mass communications, said he had to learn to walk and talk again after the accident.
He was thrown about 50 yards when he was hit and suffered numerous skull fractures and a separated right shoulder.
"My life has been forever changed," Erby said. The former Chargers intern said he has more than $1.1 million in medical bills and is a mess "emotionally, financially and physically."
Judge Timothy Walsh took the unusual step of telling Erby he was a special person.
"You're an inspiring guy, my friend," the judge said. "You have a bright future somewhere."
Erby's father said that because of his son's brain injuries, he doesn't remember going to Golden State Warriors games as a child. Lee Erby said he can't talk sports with his son.
"August 5th was the worst day of my life," he said, noting his son was on the doorstep of playing in the National Football League before the accident.
Deputy Public Defender Michael Begovich told the judge that Gutierrez's head hit the asphalt three times during the initial fight and that the defendant suffered from acute stress disorder beforehand. The judge said there was no such evidence.
Gutierrez apologized for his actions and said he pleaded guilty at an early stage of the proceedings because he didn't want to cause any more suffering for the victims.
Gutierrez's girlfriend, 24-year-old Jamillah Jones, was sentenced to 180 days in custody and placed on five years probation. She pleaded guilty to being an accessory to a crime for helping Gutierrez conceal what happened.