A man accused of causing fatal injuries to another passenger aboard a bus in downtown San Diego pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an involuntary manslaughter charge.
Edward Hilbert, 55, is charged in the May 1 death of 28-year-old Anthony McGaffe.
Investigators said the bus was on F Street near 14th Street when McGaffe and a female passenger got into a fight. Hilbert witnessed the altercation and intervened, police said.
Hilbert ended up restraining McGaffe for several minutes during which McGaffe fell unconscious and went into medical distress, police said. Someone called 911 to report the altercation, and McGaffe was unresponsive on the floor when officers arrived. He was taken to a hospital, where he died, police said.
Hilbert was arrested on suspicion of murder, but the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately file charges in the case.
Though no new details about the fatal encounter were shared in San Diego Superior Court during Hilbert’s Tuesday afternoon arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco said Hilbert “was involved in a lawful act that he committed in an unlawful manner.”
The prosecutor said outside court, “It is important to understand that when one gets involved to protect someone else, that that isn’t carte blanche to commit any act, that there are limits.”
Hilbert, who remains out of custody, faces up to four years in state prison if convicted.
Defense attorney Heather Boxeth said after the hearing: “We are extremely disappointed in the District Attorney’s Office for charging what turned out to be a tragic accident.”
According to the attorney, Hilbert was not the only passenger aboard the bus “aiding in defense of a woman being attacked.”
“I think this does make it very clear that you do not want to act as a Good Samaritan … it sends a very poor community statement,” Boxeth said.