A Los Angeles Police Department officer was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges stemming from an alleged off-duty attack on three men in El Segundo last year.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael A. Tynan ruled that sufficient evidence was presented at Joseph William Rooney’s preliminary hearing for the 34-year-old defendant to proceed to trial on four counts of assault with a firearm.
Rooney, who is due back in court for arraignment on Jan. 2, could face up to 27 years in prison if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The alleged victims had just left a bar in the 100 block of Main Street and were standing outside a nearby restaurant talking when Rooney approached them on May 22, 2016, according to Deputy District Attorney Oscar Plascencia.
Rooney allegedly pulled out a handgun, pointed it at one of the men and struck him in the face with the weapon, then pointed it at the other two men, the prosecutor said.
What precipitated Rooney’s alleged actions, and whether he knew the men, was unclear.
A witness who worked at another bar nearby and was used to seeing Rooney in the area testified that she had seen him earlier that evening.
“(He) seemed a little bit under the influence … kind of swaying back and forth a little bit” and difficult to understand, Kelsey Shilling testified.
Later, Shilling and a co-worker were waiting for an Uber ride home when she looked up and across the street and saw Rooney punch a man, the witness testified. Her co-worker ran across the street to break up the fight, according to Shilling, who described Rooney as “pumped up and angry.”
But the co-worker testified that he had been drinking too much that night to recall running across the street or to corroborate Shilling’s testimony that he told her he saw what might have been a gun in Rooney’s hand.
An El Segundo police officer who took statements from the alleged victims testified that each of the three men recalled Rooney walking up and down the street and provoking them, though each recalled his words differently.
“You think you’re special,” was what one man — who alleged Rooney struck the bridge of his nose with the butt of a handgun — remembered him saying. The other two told police that Rooney used expletives to taunt them.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Bill Seki highlighted the fact that the man who alleged being punched didn’t seek medical attention and drove off alone.
Seki also questioned how much the men — who had been playing hockey at the Toyota Sports Center before heading to the El Segundo bar — had to drink that night, something they didn’t tell the officer when reporting the alleged assault two days later.
–City News Service
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