David Zertuche sits in a police car after he was found near a Hilton hotel following the fatal stabbing. Image via OnScene.TV

A man accused of fatally stabbing another man during a fight in the Gaslamp Quarter last year was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on a murder charge.

David Zertuche, 31, is accused in the July 1, 2020, slaying of 43-year-old Canthon Tripplett of San Diego.

Police were notified of the stabbing just after 2:30 a.m. and found Tripplett in the 400 block of Fifth Avenue, where he was receiving first aid from a companion, according to Lt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department. Paramedics took Tripplett to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

According to preliminary hearing testimony, Tripplett and Zertuche got into an argument near a local pizza restaurant, which escalated into a fistfight.

During the fight, Zertuche pulled out a knife and stabbed Tripplett in the chest, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorney Lisa Charukul argued that her client acted in self-defense. She said the victim dwarfed Zertuche in size and threw the first punch during the fight, provoking her client, who was forced to defend himself against an assailant who could have been armed with a weapon for all Zertuche knew.

Deputy District Attorney Nereida Melgarejo argued that Zertuche “decided to bring a knife to a fistfight” and said Tripplett was never aware that a knife was introduced into the melee until it was too late.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Groch held Zertuche to answer on the murder count and rejected the self-defense argument, saying, “There was nothing to show that there was a threat of death or great bodily injury, certainly no threat that he didn’t have a hand in creating.”

After the stabbing, Zertuche allegedly ran from the scene and was found near the Hilton hotel, with bloody hands and a knife nearby, Melgarejo said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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