A mentally ill Fresno man who fought with co-workers at McDonald’s, said he hated cops and cracked a police officer’s head with a baton could get probation for the assault, a judge said Thursday in Fresno Superior Court.
Judge Alvin Harrell III said there were unusual circumstances that he had to weigh before punishing 24-year-old Tyler Kennedy Deel, who has been in jail since the Sept. 4, 2015, attack at McDonald’s on Kings Canyon Road near Clovis Avenue.
Deel faces up to seven years in prison, but Harrell delayed Deel’s sentencing hearing after defense lawyer Vang Heu said the defendant suffered a seizure before he assaulted Fresno police Officer Eloy Escareno.
After the attack, jail medical staff learned that Deel is bipolar, a brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood and energy that hinders his ability to know right from wrong, Heu said.
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In addition, Harrell said, Deel suffers from Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
Because Deel has mental illness and a minor criminal record, Harrell said, there’s a remote chance he could get probation. Harrell ordered Deel to be sent to prison for about 45 days so prison officials can evaluate him and make a sentencing recommendation.
At the time of the incident, Sgt. Eddie Barrios gave this account:
With his mental condition, how culpable is he?
Fresno defense attorney Vang Heu
Police were dispatched to the McDonald’s on a call of a worker fighting with the manager in the kitchen about 10:30 p.m. When Escareno arrived, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. A worker then pointed him toward the kitchen, where he encountered Deel.
Within seconds, Deel sucker-punched Escareno in the face. Defending himself, Escareno punched Deel and forced him to the floor. As they fell, Deel got hold of Escareno’s baton and hit the officer several times in the back of the head. He then yanked at Escareno’s holstered gun but was unable to remove it.
In court Thursday, prosecutor Ryan McGinthy said two bystanders saved Escareno from further harm by jumping into the altercation and holding Deel until police arrived. Once backup arrived, Deel told officers he assaulted Escareno because “he hated cops and he would do it again.”
Escareno was treated at Community Regional Medical Center for a deep 1- to 2-inch cut on the back of his head, the judge said.
Deel was charged with three felonies, including assault on a police officer and evading arrest by using force, as well as four misdemeanor charges of battery and resisting arrest.
On Sept. 21 this year, Deel pleaded no contest to felony assault on a police officer causing great bodily injury. Under the plea agreement, Deel faces up to seven years in prison but could get probation.
In January this year, Escareno sued McDonald’s, contending the fast-foot restaurant giant knew Deel had violent tendencies and was involved in prior incidents of violence. McDonald’s also knew Deel “suffers from a mental condition that made him a danger to himself and others,” the lawsuit says. A civil trial regarding the suit is pending.
Prosecutor Ryan McGinthy said Deel should go to prison because he told officers that he “hated cops and he would do it again.”
In court Thursday, McGinthy said Deel should go to prison because he knew what he was doing when he attacked Escareno. The judge agreed, saying Deel had the mindset to grab Escareno’s baton and go for the officer’s gun. But Heu said Deel was in “a state of confusion” caused by the seizure. “With his mental condition, how culpable is he?” Heu asked the judge.
In the end, the judge said it was an unusual case that made it difficult for him to decide Deel’s punishment.