An ex-con who opened fire in the Gaslamp District two years ago, wounding an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and a bystander, was sentenced Wednesday to 71 years to life in state prison.
Ray Pitoau, 39, was convicted last month of two counts of assault with a firearm for the Aug. 7, 2017, shooting that injured Deputy Jason Philpot, who was walking through downtown with his two brothers following a Metallica concert at Petco Park. Also injured was bystander Vladimir Shvets, a passerby in San Diego for a convention.
Pitoau was also convicted of a lesser charge of assault on the deputy’s younger sibling, Joshua.
Prosecutors said Philpot and his group walked past Pitoau, who got into an argument with the deputy’s sibling on Island Avenue near Sixth Avenue just after 1 a.m.
Pitoau testified that he pulled out a gun in self-defense because a group of men, including Jason Philpot, were advancing on him. He testified that he and the deputy both grabbed onto the gun, leading it to fire as they grappled over the weapon.
Jason Philpot testified that he tried to wrap his arms around Pitoau and get the gun away, but the defendant was able to pull the trigger, wounding the deputy in the chest and right arm. One of the rounds ricocheted off the sidewalk and struck Shvets.
Pitoau was arrested about a month later in Mexico.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Melinda J. Lasater declined to dismiss a number of allegations that added years to Pitoau’s sentence due to his numerous prior convictions for crimes dating back to 1991, including burglary, assault, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Reilly said Pitoau had demonstrated a history of re-offending each time he was released from prison and that “he knew better” than to bring a gun to the Gaslamp Quarter that day.
Defense attorney Jessica Marshall said evidence at trial showed the Philpots and other members of their group had been drinking and were being aggressive, with the attorney arguing Pitoau “is not the only reason this happened.”
Jurors deadlocked on the assault counts in Pitoau’s two previous trials, though one of those juries convicted Pitoau on three felony firearm possession counts.
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