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Behind the arrest 

A bigger picture of an alleged attack by a SLO firefighter emerges

- FIGHTER? :  John Ryan Mason, 34, an 11-year veteran of the San Luis Obispo City Fire Department, is accused of beating another man unconscious in the bathroom of Pappy McGregor’s Pub & Grill. -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
  • FIGHTER? : John Ryan Mason, 34, an 11-year veteran of the San Luis Obispo City Fire Department, is accused of beating another man unconscious in the bathroom of Pappy McGregor’s Pub & Grill.

Police reports obtained by New Times detail accounts of what happened during a late-night June 4 incident at Pappy McGregor’s Pub & Grill in San Luis Obispo that sent Jory Brigham, 32, of Los Osos, to the hospital with severe facial injuries.

Witnesses told police officers that SLO city firefighter John Ryan Mason, 34, was clearly the aggressor in the incident, which erupted during a wedding party at the San Luis Obispo bar.

Though at least three witnesses in addition to the victim and his wife told officers Mason had instigated the attack, Mason wasn’t arrested until five days later, on the day New Times published an article about the alleged assault and ongoing investigation.

When reporters attempted to obtain the incident reports from the District Attorney’s Office, the office instead released a three-sentence press release summarizing the charges against Mason. Such police reports are typically public record, unless the case involves a sex crime or minors.

Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran told New Times the office released the brief statement on the Mason case because the official police reports involved many witnesses and the office was trying to avoid the case “being tried in the media.”

“Ethically, I’m not supposed to put stuff out there that could influence a potential jury pool,” Gran said. “Our goal is to get [the case] into court.”

Gran added that there are some pieces of information the office is required by law to release—such as names, date of birth, and the like—
but that in some cases, it will not release detailed police reports if it looks like investigators “still have some work to do.”

Mason was arrested June 9. The DA’s Office charged him with two felony counts of assault and battery. Both charges carry enhancements for actions resulting in serious bodily injury.

Brigham told New Times his injuries required seven hours of surgery. He received three plates in his face, and his jaw had to be wired.

Calls to Mason were referred to his SLO-based attorney, Chris Casciola, who said his client acted in self-defense, adding that witness accounts will support that claim.

“I believe there will also be witnesses that will testify that Mr. Brigham followed my client into the bathroom,” Casciola said. “Unfortunately, in [cases like this], the loser of a fight is usually labeled the victim, and vice versa. It will be interesting to have an opportunity to talk to these witnesses and find out who was the instigator of the fight—and we believe that is Mr. Brigham.”

Brigham says otherwise.

“I’m not a fighter, and this was not a mutual thing by any means,” Brigham said. He declined to go into detail, saying it was a “bad, bad situation” that involved a group of friends and family.

Brigham said he’s talked to his family about the situation, and he figured it best to “keep a low profile.” He did say that there was “a lot of misinformation” being said about the incident online in the days following New Times’ initial article.

According to one of five police reports obtained by New Times, by the time police arrived at the bar, Mason had fled the scene. The officer interviewed one person who witnessed the incident, who said the two men and their spouses were attending a wedding party for mutual friends.

As to what prompted the alleged assault, one witness told police Brigham had posted a message on Facebook regarding “friends not being loyal to family.”

Another witness told police he entered the bathroom and saw Mason “in the face” of Brigham, who reportedly said, “Let’s not get into it, it’s [the bride’s] wedding, let’s talk about this later,” according to the witness.

The witness—who was using the restroom—told police he heard punches landing, and when he turned around, he saw Brigham on the ground, bleeding from the nose, mouth, and head, and Mason exiting the bathroom.

Multiple witnesses also told police that both men had been drinking that night, but that neither appeared intoxicated to the point of being drunk.

Brigham was taken via ambulance to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and treated for his injuries. Police attempted to contact Mason that night, but were unable to locate him.

Mason was finally interviewed by SLOPD officers on June 6, when he said Brigham had attempted to get into an argument with him at several points throughout the night, calling Mason “cocky” and “arrogant.” The firefighter alluded in the report to an ongoing personal conflict between the two men over their opinions of Mason’s marital fidelity.

Mason said that at about 11:30, he entered the bathroom and was met by Brigham, whom he said was drunk and began shoving him. He said he felt like he had to either “get my butt kicked or fight back.”

Mason told police that he punched Brigham “a couple more times” after he had already fallen to the ground. Fearing a larger fight might break out among the wedding party, Mason said he left the bar with his wife in a taxi.

According to one witness in the report, this isn’t Mason’s first altercation at a local establishment. The witness alleged aggressive behavior on Mason’s part in the past. New Times talked with the head of security at a local bar where such a fight, a minor one, was said to have taken place, but the description of Mason didn’t ring any bells.

Mason remains on desk duty at the fire department while his case goes through the judicial process, according to SLO Police Cpt. Chris Staley.

Gran said Mason is due to be arraigned in San Luis Obispo Superior Court sometime in the next two weeks, but a date has yet to be scheduled on the court calendar.

Intern Kai Beech can be reached via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at rmiller@newtimesslo.com. Staff Writer Matt Fountain can be reached at mfountain@newtimesslo.com.

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