The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office released video footage and additional details Thursday afternoon on an altercation in the Danville Costco parking lot that prosecutors said has insufficient evidence to press charges sought after by the injured man involved.
Craig Blackburn, a 67-year-old Danville resident, spoke to media outlets at length this week and appeared on camera with injuries he had sustained during a physical altercation outside the Costco store last weekend that is believed to have been sparked by an argument over a parking space, calling for charges to be pressed for what he said was a serious assault.
Officers with the Danville Police Department arrived at the scene for a reported battery at the Costco parking lot at 11:26 a.m. on Sunday (May 7), and proceeded with a criminal investigation. The case was subsequently referred to the DA's office, who declined to file charges against the other man -- who has not been identified publicly -- after they'd completed a review of evidence collected by DPD on Tuesday.
Ted Asregadoo, public information officer for the DA's office, joined Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton and deputy DA Adam Wilks for a press conference Thursday afternoon, during which they released surveillance video of the encounter and sought to explain the office's decision.
"(The video) shows that there were multiple opportunities for both of these individuals to walk away from what ended up being an argument over a parking space," Asregadoo told DanvilleSanRamon.
In the beginning of video footage of the altercation, the other man can be seen sitting in his white sedan near a parking space in which Blackburn is loading groceries into his white SUV. Blackburn then passes the vehicle several minutes later to return his grocery cart, stopping briefly before pushing the cart into its receptacle then returning to the driver's side window of the sedan and appearing to speak to the driver.
About 10 seconds later, the driver's side door of the sedan opens and the other man steps out, turning toward Blackburn before taking several steps back. Blackburn then walks away as the driver returns to his vehicle and closes the door, with Blackburn turning around and returning to the driver's side window before walking back toward his vehicle, according to the video.
"Mr. Blackburn had opportunities to walk away, just to get into his car," Asregadoo said. "The other person had the opportunity to just leave, yet it was apparent that there were words exchanged and things were getting heated."
Blackburn then returns to the white sedan, with the driver opening the door and stepping out again before returning and driving away about 20 seconds later, in what appeared at first to be the end of the incident, according to the video.
"At one point another individual who is parked motions that he's going to be leaving and he can have his spot," Asregadoo said. "Instead, the person who was in the car and yelling at Mr. Blackburn chose to go park somewhere else in the parking lot further away from where they were."
According to surveillance footage, it wasn't until a second encounter that the situation escalated to violence that resulted in Blackburn's leaving the parking lot in an ambulance and being hospitalized that day.
"The second encounter shows from the security footage that Mr. Blackburn leaves, pulls out of the parking space, goes down the aisle, but he doesn't exit the parking space and leave the area," Asregadoo said. "He instead goes to where the other person was parked and the other person has gotten out of his car. It's possible that there were words exchanged there."
The video shows Blackburn driving into a separate row of the parking lot, during which he approaches the other man -- now outside of his white sedan and walking toward the store -- and stops his white SUV briefly. The other man can be seen walking toward Blackburn's driver's side door and stopping there for several seconds before appearing to reach into the window as Blackburn accelerates for several feet, then abruptly stops and exits his vehicle.
"As he comes to the car, you can tell there's words exchanged," Asregadoo said. "There's an object that's thrown from the vehicle that Mr. Blackburn is in. Mr. Blackburn then accelerates his vehicle. Then Mr. Blackburn just stops, gets out of his car, and starts walking towards the alleged suspect, who turns around. And that's when punches start getting thrown."
A fistfight ensues for about five seconds before both are seen tumbling to the ground and a bystander appears to intervene, with the other man then walking away. Other bystanders come to Blackburn's aid as some shoppers look on from outside the store.
The scene showcased by the surveillance footage contradicts the account that Blackburn gave to various media outlets this week, in which he said that the attack was unprovoked. It also makes it virtually impossible for the DA's office to prosecute, according to Asregadoo.
"To prove beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors have to show that Mr. Blackburn was a victim of an assault and any attempts to fight back were self defense, when what was clearly seen in the video raises reasonable doubt issues," Asregadoo said. "We would never be able to with confidence prosecute the case as he wanted it prosecuted."
Although Asregadoo said there were apparently words exchanged initially and leading up to the physical encounter, the lack of audio from the video footage and other evidence obtained by DPD made it difficult to tell exactly what had caused the situation to escalate, or what the motives of either party had been.
"We can't tell what's being said," Asregadoo said. "We're looking at body language -- at various times the alleged suspect gets out of the car and gets back into his car. Mr. Blackburn is also doing something similar."
"You could tell these two guys do not like each other," he added. "They were two guys with short fuses, short tempers, and they happened to encounter each other."
Nonetheless, Asregadoo noted that Blackburn's injuries had been substantial, and that there was no denying the distress he'd experienced and put on display in media interviews this week.
"Mr. Blackburn was clearly attacked," Asregadoo said. "He suffered injuries. From his perspective, this is what had occurred, what he said to the media."
Asregadoo said that it was unknown if the other man had suffered injuries or been hospitalized following the altercation.