2 Men Describe Life-or-Death Fight on Beach : Justice: Preliminary hearing begins for San Diego officer suspected in series of slayings.
Two Mira Mesa men gave vivid accounts Wednesday of their desperate fight with a stocking-masked gunman last Aug. 15, when they were shot while rushing to the aid of a female companion accosted by the man on dark and deserted Torrey Pines State Beach.
Aldo Ochoa, 21, and Arthur Gracia, 23, testified during the first day of the preliminary hearing for San Diego Police Officer Henry Hubbard that their attacker “was calm and in control” during the confrontation. According to prosecution charges against Hubbard, he attacked the two men and Charisma Carpenter, 21, while the three were dressing after a post-midnight swim.
For the record:
12:00 a.m. Oct. 25, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 25, 1991 San Diego County Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Column 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Hubbard case--A headline Thursday misstated the crimes that former San Diego Police Officer Henry Hubbard is suspected of committing. Hubbard is suspected in a series of rapes and robberies.
The two slightly built men, who were unarmed and dressed only in their underwear, rushed the attacker, who was holding them at bay with a handgun. They said the attack began when Ochoa rushed to Carpenter’s aid after she screamed when the attacker stepped out of the shadows with pistol in hand. Carpenter, who had also gone swimming in her underwear, was getting dressed.
Hubbard, 29, a 4 1/2-year veteran of the police force, is charged with attempted murder and attempted robbery. He is also a prime suspect in a series of rapes and robberies that occurred during the summer at San Diego-area beaches. Two of the rape victims were girls 13 and 14 years old.
Although earlier reports said that Hubbard attempted to rape Carpenter, he was not charged with sexually assaulting her. Both Ochoa and Gracia testified that he never assaulted the woman. Hubbard, who was suspended and is facing termination, is in County Jail, unable to post bail of $2 million.
Wednesday, Ochoa and Gracia described a bloody and failed attempt to wrest the gun from the attacker. They said they jumped atop the gunman, who was knocked on his back in the sand--holding his handgun with both hands, pointing it up at the two men.
The first shot fired hit Gracia in the upper right side of the chest. Despite the wound, Gracia testified that he did not realize he had been shot and continued wrestling with the gunman for five more minutes.
He testified that the second shot hit Ochoa. Ochoa, who was shot in the abdomen, gave up the fight and walked to his vehicle, which was parked on Torrey Pines Road, and almost passed out.
Ochoa was critically injured with liver damage and spent two weeks in the hospital. Gracia was hospitalized for two days and had to return later to have the bullet removed.
After fighting for about five minutes, Gracia said, the attacker offered him an opportunity to walk away from the fight alive.
“He said, ‘If you know what’s good for you, just run,’ “Gracia testified.
Both Gracia and Ochoa testified that their attacker was wearing a stocking mask and said they were unable to identify him. However, both men said that the assailant was a black man. Prosecutors said several pieces of evidence point to Hubbard, who is black, as the gunman.
In his testimony, Ochoa said he managed to bite the attacker’s left ear during the fight.
“I grabbed him and bit his ear twice and behind his back,” Ochoa said.
Police Lt. Steven Creighton testified that he was dispatched to UC San Diego Medical Center on the night of the incident to investigate the shooting of an off-duty officer--Hubbard. Creighton, who was the only field lieutenant on duty that night, said that, when he arrived at the hospital, he noticed that Hubbard had suffered a gunshot wound on his left hand and was bleeding from his left ear.
Hubbard was not a suspect in the Torrey Pines State Beach shootings at the time, Creighton said. Hubbard told him that he suffered the injuries when he was attacked by three unknown assailants after his car broke down near Mira Mesa Boulevard and I-805. However, Creighton said he became suspicious of Hubbard’s story almost immediately.
“He stated that he lay unconscious on Mira Mesa Boulevard for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.). . . . Mira Mesa Boulevard, even in the early-morning hours, is heavily traveled,” Creighton said.
Furthermore, Hubbard said that, when he regained consciousness, he got in his car and drove away. This prompted Creighton to ask Hubbard how he was able to drive away in a vehicle that had supposedly broken down, Creighton testified.
“After he finished the story, I asked myself, ‘Does this make sense?’ ” Creighton said.
He said he began to suspect that Hubbard was involved in a crime after duty Lt. Larry Kenney, who was at downtown headquarters, told him about the beach shootings that had occurred hours earlier. Creighton said he noticed that Hubbard was covered with sand, and there was sand on the hospital sheet he used.
In addition, Hubbard’s T-shirt and Bermuda shorts were covered with blood. Creighton was able to coax Hubbard into giving him his tennis shoes and socks, which were also full of sand, and T-shirt for safekeeping. The lieutenant testified that he placed the items in paper sacks and later gave them to evidence technicians.
Before the scuffle, Ochoa and Gracia testified, their attacker tried to have them tie each other up. Both he and Carpenter made a halfhearted effort to tie Gracia with a belt, Ochoa testified. Ochoa added that Carpenter flatly refused the gunman’s order to tie him (Ochoa) up too, even after the assailant pointed a handgun at her.
At one point, the attacker handed Carpenter a flashlight to hold while he squatted to tie up Ochoa. Gracia said he took advantage of the gunman’s distraction, untied himself and lunged at him. He was quickly joined by Ochoa, and the two of them struggled to take the gun away from the man.
After the shootings, Gracia tossed the flashlight in Ochoa’s vehicle, and the three drove to a convenience store on Carmel Mountain Road, where they called police and paramedics.
Officer John Hendrix and his partner were sent to the market. Hendrix said his partner rode with the victims to the hospital, while he secured their vehicle. While looking inside the vehicle, he found a police flashlight.
“I assumed it belonged to my partner,” Hendrix said.
But, later at the hospital, Gracia informed him that the flashlight belonged to their attacker, Hendrix testified. Before giving the flashlight to an evidence technician, he noted that the flashlight had Hubbard’s name and police identification number, Hendrix said.
The preliminary hearing will resume this morning in Municipal Judge Ronald Domnitz’s courtroom.