Petco Park in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A 20-year-old man pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge Friday for last year’s fatal beating of a 56-year-old man near a pedestrian bridge behind Petco Park.

Dominick Wells admitted his role in the Nov. 18, 2018, beating of Edward Starlard, who was left comatose as a result of the attack by Wells and a group of juveniles.

Wells faces up to 11 years in state prison when he is sentenced Oct. 11.

Three of the juveniles involved were also charged in juvenile court. Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb said two of the minors have pleaded guilty and one has been sentenced, while the third juvenile defendant’s case remains pending.

Witnesses said Starlard had been fighting with a group of young people the afternoon of Nov. 18 when he was thrown down and beaten unconscious. When witnesses started yelling at the attackers to stop, they fled east on Imperial Avenue, police said.

Starlard never regained consciousness and was placed on life support. He died Dec. 3 at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

A cell phone video recorded by a bystander captures Starlard, Wells and the juveniles exchanging words, none of which can be heard in the video. At some point, both men grab objects to seemingly defend themselves. Wells picks up a broomstick, while Starlard lifts a bicycle over his head.

Starland later tosses the bike to the ground, and is then knocked down to the sidewalk by Wells and the juveniles, who begin punching and kicking him.

A medical examiner testified that Starlard’s death was the result of a heart attack, which could have been caused by stress or trauma from the fight.

Wells was previously charged with murder in the attack, but that charge was dismissed at Friday morning’s hearing. He was also previously charged with torture for beating Starlard after he’d been knocked to the ground, but a judge dismissed that count at Wells’ preliminary hearing.

–City News Service

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