A rapt Orange County jury today watched surveillance video of a drunk, white supremacist hoodlum sucker punching a 22-year-old Iranian American inside a Laguna Niguel restaurant/bar and then fatally stabbing his unarmed victim in the heart on a Sept. 2015 morning.
The footage of Shayan Mazroei’s ridiculously unnecessary demise drove his weeping mother, Shahzad, and father, Hamid, temporarily from Superior Court Judge Geoffrey T. Glass’ Santa Ana courtroom, where jurors heard opening statements in a wrongful death complaint accusing the owners of Patsy’s Irish Pub and Mark Fillingham, their security guard, of gross negligence leading to the murder.
According to Michael Alder, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing the victim’s family, Fillingham knew that Craig Tanber, a member of the Public Enemy Number One (PEN1) criminal street gang, had threatened to stab Mazroei, but nonetheless diverted his attention to another part of the establishment to deal with an intoxicated customer’s request for a taxi.
That’s when Tanber, who’d been recently released from prison for a prior gruesome murder and has “PEN1” tattooed over his throat in black ink, attacked, leaving his victim dead by the pool table and then fleeing in a vehicle driven by Elizabeth Thornburg, his longtime friend.
Alder claims Thornburg instigated a confrontation with Mazroei, an engineering student, by spitting on him three times, calling him an “Arab” and a “terrorist,” and, as the video showed, chasing him around the pool table in the minutes leading up to the killing.
“You can see he’s frightened,” Alder said before telling jurors that Fillingham, who worked as a carpenter during the day, had a duty to make sure Tanber left the premises before focusing on other matters and to call the police to report a felony criminal threat made by the gangster.
“This was an avoidable incident,” he said.
However, Robert T. Bergsten, Patsy’s attorney, tried to undermine Alder’s presentation of an entirely innocent victim, who was known by family and friends as “a devout animal lover.” Bergsten claimed Mazroei spat on Thornburg, flipped cigarette ashes at her and called the college student and mother of three kids a bitch before the stabbing.
The lawyer said the security guard considered Tanber’s threat of violence nothing more than “knucklehead verbal bravado” he often heard at the bar without incident and had taken “reasonable steps” to deescalate tensions by separating the parties before ordering both Thornburg and the gangster to leave.
Bergsten told the jury that from Fillingham’s perspective the white supremacist looked like a non-threatening “Tom Cruise,” who’d spent most of his time inside Patsy’s drinking pitchers of beer, kissing Thornburg and chatting without controversy.
“The [legal] standard of care was met,” he said. “The evidence will show this unfortunate murder was the result of one man’s actions.”
The victim’s family and friends wanted the killing labeled a hate crime by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, but he refused.
In 2004, Tanber, who is presently locked inside the Theo Lacy Jail without access to bail, helped fellow notorious PEN1 gangster Billy Joe Johnson, known for senselessly overkilling his targets, commit the savage, ambush, steel claw hammer murder of a 26-year-old man in Huntington Beach.
Police investigators say PEN1, whose members sport pro-Adolf Hitler tattoos, began in Costa Mesa several decades ago as a spinoff of the Aryan Brotherhood and Nazi Low Riders.
Though undoubtedly homicidal when high on their preferred methamphetamine, this gang’s espoused racial purity dogma has been severely undercut to the point of laughter over the years by revelations they date Latinas, party with African Americans and form narcotics dealing alliances with associates of the Mexican Mafia.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.