By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo departed for Russia on Thursday as questions swirled about his arrest during a brawl in San Diego over Labor Day.
Several new details emerged Thursday about the fight outside a San Diego nightclub that left one man unconscious and landed one of Sonoma County’s youngest and most popular politicians in jail for 10 hours on suspicion of felony battery causing injury.
Police Lt. Andra Brown said the investigation has not reached the stage at which detectives will decide whether to send the case to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office with a recommendation that charges be filed.
She noted that battery with injury is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Felonies are handled by the District Attorney’s Office, misdemeanors by the city attorney, she said.
In Santa Rosa, calls poured into Carrillo’s district office Thursday after the incident surfaced in news reports. Most of the callers expressed support for Carrillo, but some were critical, district director Susan Upchurch said.
Carrillo spoke with his aide Thursday, but for the second straight day did not return multiple phone calls and text messages seeking comment about the early Monday altercation.
His silence has left many key questions unanswered, including who was with him when the fight broke out, who bailed him out of jail and what attorney is representing the 31-year-old supervisor.
In a statement issued by his office Wednesday after reports of the arrest first surfaced, Carrillo said he stepped in to defend women in his group who were being harassed by “rowdies.”
According to family members, Carrillo left Thursday from San Francisco International Airport on an eight-day trip to Russia. He is part of a group of North Coast residents marking the bicentennial of the founding of the former Russian settlement of Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast.
Fort Ross, now a state park, is in Carrillo’s 5th Supervisorial District.
Carrillo made his own way to the airport for the 2 p.m. flight to St. Petersburg, Russia, electing not to join the other 22 people in the group for the bus ride from Petaluma.
Supporters said they trust Carrillo’s version of the fight and believe he did nothing wrong. Those going to Russia with Carrillo said they didn’t think the incident would overshadow the trip.
“I don’t have any reason to doubt his word about what happened,” said Dave Lemmer of Camp Meeker.
Trip director Robin Joy Wellman said Carrillo would be among those meeting Russian government officials in St. Petersburg and Moscow. State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, is in Russia on a separate trip with other lawmakers and is expected to join Carrillo at some point.
“It’s important for Efren to be there,” Wellman said before boarding the bus. “We have full faith in him.”
Meanwhile, San Diego authorities offered a bit more information about the confrontation, which happened on Fourth Avenue in the center of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter entertainment district.
Brown, the police lieutenant, said officers were called out at about 2:10 a.m. to find three men fighting in the street. They arrested Carrillo first and then detained a second man, Rayan Jastaniyah, 22, of San Diego, who appeared to try to get away, Brown said.
“The other suspect tried to mingle in the crowd,” she said. “People pointed him out and he was arrested as well.”
She said she didn’t know if Carrillo and Jastaniyah were friends.
The third man, Jovan Will, 30, of Mesa, Ariz., was knocked unconscious, she said. Will declined comment when reached by phone Thursday.
Carrillo and Jastaniyah were booked on suspicion of battery causing serious injury and disturbing the peace.
Carrillo was released from jail just before noon Monday after posting $10,000 bail, according to jail records.
Brown said detectives were interviewing numerous witnesses and Will, who initially is being considered a victim in the case. It is unclear if the fight was captured on one of many video surveillance cameras in the area, but Brown said it was a possibility.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this,” Brown said. “Many witnesses are being contacted.”
It was unclear when Carrillo returned to Sonoma County. He attended a Sebastopol City Council meeting Tuesday night. His aide Upchurch said he was in San Francisco on Wednesday in preparation for his flight to Russia.
Upchurch said she talked to Carrillo on Thursday morning about his travel plans but nothing else.
She said she fielded about 20 calls, most expressing support but some offering critical comments and asking about the funding for the Russian trip. She said Carrillo is paying for it himself.
Upchurch said she didn’t know who Carrillo was visiting in San Diego or who he was with at the time of the arrest. She also didn’t know how long he had been in Southern California.
“I don’t ask him his personal business,” she said.
In a written statement issued Wednesday, Carrillo said he was in San Diego on a personal business trip. He was socializing with a group of friends when “rowdies approached our group and harassed the women in our group.”
“I stepped in to protect them,” he said. “I’m anxious to tell my side of the story during legal proceedings.”
The statement went on to say he was traveling and would be unavailable until he returns to the office for a board meeting Sept. 18. His aide said he was returning to California on Sept. 14, ahead of the rest of the group.
Friends and longtime political backers rallied in his support.
“He is one of my community ‘mijos’ and I’ve always been very proud of how he’s conducted himself and the integrity he’s had in our community,” said Donna Zapata, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, referring to Carrillo with the diminutive common in Mexican culture.
“The consensus, in talking to folks, is we all know him. There had to have been something that was a motivator,” Zapata said, “and that would have been someone was being harmed. I don’t see him sitting back and saying, ‘Oh, I’m an elected official, I’m going to turn my head.’ ”
Another friend, Rene Meza, an organizer of the annual Cinco de Mayo festival in Santa Rosa, said, “We know that definitely he’s the type of person who would reach out and defend someone in need.”
Staff Writers Jeremy Hay and Julie Johnson contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.