By Joshua Cenzano
SANTA BARBARA, CA – The trial of Victor Andres Vargas, accused of felony battery against a police officer as a result of an altercation with another man on Nov. 9, 2019, proceeded here this week in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Officer Brandon Prelesnik, a rookie officer who was among the first on the scene of the altercation and who apprehended Vargas, told the jury he suffered lacerations as a result of confronting Vargas. Another deputy claimed that a chronic knee injury was aggravated from the fracas.
Vargas is also accused of resisting and/or obstructing a law enforcement officer engaged in lawful actions.
Prelesnik said he first encountered Vargas in a physical altercation with a certain another man, noting a deputy sheriff on scene had taken control of Vargas but Vargas began overpowering the deputy and Prelesnik moved to assist.
Prelesnik said during direct examination that he and the deputy wrestled Vargas to the ground despite his alleged uncooperativeness, but they sustained injuries while subduing him.
Assistant Public Defender Erica Sutherland questioned the officers’ verbal commands or lack thereof.
Prelesnik admitted that neither he nor the deputy sheriff verbally informed Vargas that he was being detained or was under arrest before restraining him. She questioned the force applied to Vargas and whether he really needed to be brought down to the ground.
“We communicated nonverbally,” said Prelesnik when asked how he and the deputy knew to employ a control hold meant to bring Vargas down.
While Sutherland scrutinized his methods on cross-examination, Prelesnik remained adamant that his conduct was correct and that Vargas had to be restrained as a result of his violence both against the officers and the man Vargas was allegedly fighting.
Prelesnik was sworn into the police force in April 2019 and had just began working on his own when the incident took place. He was dispatched to the area of Chapala and State on the night in question to respond to a report of a man unconscious on the ground. Upon locating the man, Prelesnik said he observed the altercation between Vargas and the other man and moved to intervene.
The trial is expected to be ongoing until early December. Vargas has been released on bail and is not in custody.