A security guard who drove his pickup truck through a line of pickets at the Torrance Mobil Oil Refinery in March, injuring two men, was convicted Thursday in Torrance Superior Court of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Onna Brown, 21, will face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 7 by Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki.
Brown shook his head and covered his face and his wife wept at the jury’s verdict, which ended a 4-day trial.
Fujisaki ruled there was insufficient evidence for the jury to consider two charges of attempted murder against Brown.
The incident occurred March 15 as striking members of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union picketed the refinery’s main gate on 190th Street. Brown, who worked at the refinery for Excel Security Service, testified that he was off duty that day when he went to the guard station to collect $100 owed him by a co-worker.
Witnesses testified that Brown collected his money and that he and his wife, Eugenia, then became agitated and aggressive when they were taunted and called “scabs” by the strikers as they left the refinery grounds. Brown drove onto 190th Street, then backed up at high speed for a second encounter with the strikers.
Brown hit two strikers when he drove off for the second time, witnesses said. Evert Jenkins, 49, suffered leg injuries and Juan Canizales, 48, was thrown over the hood and into the windshield, suffering severe head injuries, according to testimony.
Both have recovered, although Canizales is still undergoing physical therapy.
A security camera captured the episode and the videotape was played for jurors.
Defense attorney James Foster conceded that the tape was damaging, but he argued that Brown was frightened and was merely trying to escape from a threatening situation. “He showed recklessness more than anything else,” Foster said, after the verdict. “I don’t think he had any intent to harm anyone.”
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Patricia Flanigan said Brown showed “aggression, anger and retaliation” when he argued with strikers and then drove at them. The videotape showed that Brown could have taken another path to 190th Street that was not clogged with strikers, Flanigan said.
Brown was released on bail.
Foster said that he will argue that Brown, a father, should be sentenced to probation since he has no previous record and did not intend to harm anyone.
Flanigan said she must talk to the victims and her superiors before deciding what sentence to recommend to Judge Fujisaki.