A probationer out on bail in an assault case was charged Wednesday with threatening to light victims on fire with an improvised flamethrower in Newport Beach.
Jason Dean Ruggerello, 42, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, criminal threats and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of unlawful exhibiting of a laser scope on another person. He also faces a sentencing enhancement allegation of committing a crime while out on bail, according to court records.
Ruggerello was arraigned in the jail courtroom in Santa Ana and was ordered to return to court Oct. 28 for a pretrial hearing at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
On Sept. 30 at 9:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the 4000 block of West Coast Highway on a report of a suspect threatening to light a female victim on fire, said Heather Rangel a spokeswoman for Newport Beach police.
Ruggerello was accused of making threatening comments to the victim, who went inside to a nearby building and asked for someone to call police, Rangel said. When she came back outside, she saw the suspect return from his car with an aerosol can and a lighter in hand, and she went back into the business, at which point he fled the area, Rangel said.
On Monday, police were called about 1:30 p.m. on a report of a suspect with a weapon near 53rd Street and Seashore Drive, Rangel said. A victim alleged the man — later identified as Ruggerello — used an aerosol spray can and a lighter to improvise a flamethrower aimed at his face, Rangel said.
Ruggarello was out on bail at the time on felony assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats charges stemming from a March 17 incident in Irvine, according to court records.
Ruggerello pleaded guilty in July 2018 to assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of brandishing a weapon and reckless driving, all misdemeanors, and was put on three years probation in that case, according to court records.