In a hospital, accused Del Mar racetrack shooter pleads not guilty

In a La Jolla hospital Monday, Sept. 17, an Escondido man pleaded not guilty to charges he opened fire at the Del Mar Fairgrounds when he couldn't get into a sold-out Ice Cube concert over Labor Day weekend.

New details of the accusations against Daniel Elizarraras, 22, emerged after his arraignment, including that a deputy had initially tried to use a Taser on the alleged shooter, and had to pull his firearm when the Taser deployment was “ineffective,” according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon.

The deputy shot Elizarraras four times — three times in his torso, once in an arm — during the Sept. 2 incident. Elizarraras was rushed to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, where he has remained.

Prosecutors filed charges Sept. 7, accusing Elizarraras of assault with a semi-automatic firearm on a peace officer and illegally discharging a firearm with negligence. He faces up to 19 years in prison if convicted.

His arraignment — delayed for medical reasons — came Monday at Scripps La Jolla. Reporters were not allowed to attend the hearing.

Afterward, Runyon told reporters the details he had revealed during the hearing.

The prosecutor said that prior to the shooting, fairgrounds officials had determined that the venue was at capacity and turned people away from the races and the concert to follow.

In the afternoon and evening, several fights broke out between security guards and potential concert-goers upset by the lack of access to the show, Runyon said.

Deputies tried to break up the fights, and then one deputy “saw the defendant in this case raise a silver-colored semiautomatic firearm” and fire off two shots in the air in a large crowd by a ticket booth, the prosecutor said.

“That deputy, however, had transitioned to his Taser and tried to deploy the Taser in the hopes of defeating any potential threat,” Runyon said.

But the discharge was ineffective, so the deputy “transitioned quickly to his sidearm,” Runyon said.

“At that point — before any shots were fired by the sheriffs — the defendant in this case turned and lowered his right hand, turned and pointed toward the deputy with a firearm, resulting in the deputy shooting the suspect four times,” Runyon said.

Video recordings of portions of the incident have been posted on social media.

Although he is hospitalized, Elizarraras is technically in sheriff’s custody. Runyon said San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Groch agreed to triple the defendant’s bail to $300,000.

Elizarraras’ attorney unsuccessfully argued that his client had no significant criminal history, and that the bail should remain at $100,000.

Authorities said Elizarraras had gone to a ticket window at the fairgrounds around 6:40 p.m. Sept. 2 in hopes of buying a ticket, and grew upset when none were available.

He is accused of pulling out a gun and firing several shots, creating chaos during the last horse race of the day at the seaside racetrack, during one of the busiest days of the season, with roughly 30,800 in attendance.

Deputies were already in the area to respond to the confrontation at the ticket booth when the 22-year-old is said to have pulled out his gun and fired, authorities said.

The deputy who shot Elizarraras was identified Monday as Deputy Tyler Eikermann, an 11-year department veteran assigned to the Sheriff’s Railroad Enforcement team.

Two other deputies at the scene did not open fire. They were identified Monday as Sgt. Fred Duey, who has been with the department for 23 years and is assigned to the Search and Rescue Unit, and Deputy Ellyn Bell, who has been with the department two years. She is assigned to the San Diego courthouse.

The Ice Cube concert went on as scheduled that night. The following day, the rapper and actor weighed in on the shooting on Twitter.

“I feel bad for the people who left the show, but I totally understand,” Ice Cube tweeted in response to a fan’s tweet. “Moral of the story: Come see ya homie Cube…but leave the strap at home.”

—Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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