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Gary John, co-owner of the Air Conditioned Lounge in University Heights, believes his bar was unfairly implicated in news stories and broadcasts that covered the July 29 murder of 27-year-old Miguel Leon-Fregoso.

In a July 30 SignOnSanDiego story, it was written that “Leon-Fregoso was at the Air Conditioned bar on 30th Street” and was leaving the club around 1 a.m. when he had an altercation with suspect David Barron, 25, of Spring Valley.

According to the press release emailed by the San Diego Police Department, Leon-Fregoso was shot in the alley on the 4600 block of 30th Street, behind the bar.

“[N]o one told me that [the suspect or victim] were in the bar,” says John. “He was shot behind the bar. The detective made a point to ask all the staff if they had seen anything unusual – any disturbances, altercations, or disagreements – there was nothing here that night.”

John says he heard “…all three of the people were at the same [house] party. The victim and the friend were walking down the alley.… The shooter was in a truck and challenged the guy over something – disrespecting – then I heard the victim told the shooter, ‘You don’t have the balls to shoot me.’ The guy pulled the trigger.”

John says the negative press has caused some nearby residents to point fingers at his establishment, accusing it of attracting troublemakers.

“Before we opened [in 2004], what was next door? This low-budget Sanford and Son used-knickknack store. Next to that was this low-budget coffee shop.… The person who actually lives closest to the bar used to keep a file on Your Place [the previous bar that occupied the address] with the stabbings and the pimps and the drug deals and all that other stuff. He loves Air Conditioned and the customers. I hate people that toot their own horn, but we really have done a lot to help clean up this part of the block.”

It wasn’t the first time Air Conditioned was mentioned in association with a homicide. In 2007, a male and female were shot by a robber one block north of the club. The male died from his wounds, but his girlfriend survived. The SDPD press release said the two had just left a bar near 30th and Adams, but didn’t specify if the couple was leaving Air Conditioned or Kadan, which is directly across the street. The suspected shooter, Michael Mason (also suspected of committing a 2005 home-invasion murder in Southeast San Diego), was recently arrested in Las Vegas after being profiled on America’s Most Wanted.

– Larry Harmon

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