San Diego Play armchair district attorney a moment. Before you lies the case of 26-year-old William "Bill" Dolan. On February 12, 2005, Dolan goes out barhopping with some friends and acquaintances. The group numbers about eight. After a couple of other stops, the group arrives at the Open Bar at 4302 Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach sometime around 11:00 p.m. According to witness statements in the police report, members of Dolan's group exchange unpleasant words with an Oceanside man named Gerald Tovar, who is sitting with his wife at a nearby table. Around 12:30 a.m., Dolan and some of his group are leaving the bar to catch a cab home when Darren Dhont, one of Dolan's party, and Tovar get into an angry shouting match. Tovar is standing inside the bar's gated patio. Dhont is on the sidewalk. A four-foot wooden fence separates them. Dolan walks up to the arguing pair. According to witnesses, including two Open Bar bouncers, the argument ends when Tovar seizes a nearby beer bottle and smashes it over Dolan's head, knocking him to the ground. Tovar then grabs another bottle and hits Dolan's roommate, Sean Washington, with it. Washington falls to the ground bleeding from his head.
At this point, Open Bar security personnel restrain Tovar and escort him through the bar and out the back door. Meanwhile, Dolan hops over the wooden fence to restrain Dhont, who has jumped the fence in an attempt to get at Tovar. Four to five minutes later, Dolan is back on the sidewalk attempting to call 911 when Tovar, accompanied by a couple of Open Bar security staff, walks toward where Dolan and Dhont are standing. Tovar lunges forward and, the police report states, "stab[s] Dolan with an unknown object."
Dolan is taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where he undergoes surgery to repair a tear in the intestines. Police take Tovar into custody and book "him into County Jail for two counts of 245(a)(1)P.C. -- assault with a deadly weapon."
San Diego police detective Nick Borrelli, in his report on the incident, writes, "Based on the above investigation, I request Gerald Tovar be charged with three counts of 245(a)(1) P.C. ADW" -- assault with a deadly weapon.
Now, amateur D.A., it's time for your decision. Are you going to prosecute Gerald Tovar for three counts of assault with a deadly weapon? If you answered yes, you're at odds with the office of district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Despite Detective Borrelli's investigation, the district attorney's office decided not to pursue the case. Asked why not, district attorney spokeswoman Gail Stewart would only say, "We don't comment on why we reject specific cases."
Asked if, in general, late-night bar fights are hard to prosecute because of the likely inebriation of combatants and witnesses, Stewart said, "No, we prosecute bar-fight cases all the time."
Dolan says he didn't get much of an explanation from the district attorney's office, either. "One investigator I talked to about a month after it happened said, 'Why are you so concerned? You weren't really injured.' Not really injured! I have 14 inches of scarring. My large intestine was 75 percent severed. The police report said it wasn't life threatening. Yeah, I wasn't going to bleed to death, but under certain circumstances there was a 50-50 chance of getting infection. And once you get an infection... So the fact that I didn't get infected and I made it through without any major complications, I was lucky. But if it had gotten infected, then I pretty much would have died."
Life threatening or not, the wound Dolan received at Tovar's hand was serious enough to warrant emergency surgery. Performed through a foot-long abdominal incision, the surgery was followed by eight days in the hospital. "I couldn't even eat or drink any fluids for the entire time I was in the hospital," Dolan recalls. "I was just on IV. Then even for the next three or four weeks, I was on a liquid diet because -- my intestines having been sewn back together -- I wasn't able to pass solid substance through there. And for the first month I couldn't walk at all. After I started walking, I was walking hunched over because they had to cut through my whole abdominal muscle from my ribcage all the way down to below my waistline because they didn't know where exactly my injuries were or how much internal bleeding there was. So they had to do an exploratory surgery in my abdominal cavity."
Dolan wasn't immediately aware that he had been stabbed that night at the Open Bar. He recalls the moments leading up to the stabbing. "They [Open Bar security] brought Tovar back to the sidewalk area approximately 12 feet from where I was standing. When I noticed that they were bringing him toward me, I began to back away. The security personnel were not restraining Tovar; they were just escorting him back to where I was standing by holding his arm. Once the security personnel released Tovar's arm, he continued coming toward me. I was on the phone trying to report the first two [bottle] incidents to the police. As Tovar got close, I lowered the phone and raised my hands up as I suspected that he might swing at me. I wanted to protect my face and head if he were to do so. He did not swing at my face, but he swung at my abdominal area with a sweeping-type motion. When he came in contact with my abdomen, I lost feeling in the entire lower half of my body [except for] a sharp pinching pain and a tingling sensation. I looked down and saw that there was a six-inch tear in my shirt and that my undershirt was also cut. I lifted the two shirts and saw a three-inch jagged cut on my stomach and my intestines protruding from the wound about three inches. A minor amount of blood was coming out, but much intestinal fluid was leaking from the wound. I yelled that I'd been stabbed and then hit the ground trying to hold my intestines in."