‘Punching Game' at Downtown San Diego Bar Leaves Man Dead

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office will perform an autopsy on the victim to determine his official cause and manner of death

A man enjoying a night out at a downtown San Diego bar died after playing what witnesses described as some sort of “punching game” with a friend, which led him to collapse.

San Diego Police Department Lt. Matt Dobbs said officers were called to the Jolt’n Joe’s Gaslamp bar on Fourth Avenue just before 1 a.m. to help a patron who had been injured. When police arrived, they found a 27-year-old man in the bar area, unresponsive.

Bystanders were giving him CPR, but he wasn’t moving.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) crews soon arrived and took the man to a local hospital. He couldn’t be revived and was pronounced dead at 1:45 a.m., the SDPD confirmed.

Police launched an investigation into the man’s death and learned that he had been playing a game with a friend at the bar in which they were repeatedly punching one another.

After multiple blows, the victim collapsed, falling to the ground, Dobbs said.

The friend who played the punching game with the victim remained at the bar. He too was taken to a hospital for treatment. SDPD homicide detectives interviewed him overnight. At this point, it is unclear if that man will face charges in the victim's death.

"We're in the process of interviewing him right now and determining exactly what happened," Dobbs added.

The lieutenant said detectives would look into the relationship between the men and the circumstances of the deadly game they were allegedly playing. 

"We're not sure exactly what the arrangement or what the game was, all we know is that they were exchanging punches, mutually," Dobbs said.

Police did not immediately release the names of the men but witnesses said they were regular customers at the bar.

Sean Kisner, director of operations for Jolt’n Joe’s, said the victim was attending a friend’s birthday party and appeared to be having a good time when the night took a tragic turn. 

“At one point, while they were roughhousing, one of them collapsed,” Kisner recounted.

He said a barback, trained in CPR, ran over to help the victim. 

"He jumped right in. He did what he could," Kisner added.

Kisner said the victim worked in the local bar and restaurant industry and was well-known in the downtown area.

“We get a lot of people from the restaurants, the hotels and the bars in the area. It’s kind of like family; everybody knows everybody,” Kisner told NBC 7. “Already, we’re getting texts and phone calls from people [asking] what happened, what’s going on?”

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office will perform an autopsy on the victim to determine his official cause and manner of death.

The investigation is ongoing; anyone with information on this case can reach out to the SDPD Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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