Prosecutor: Man plowed van into bar crowd after telling bouncers ‘I’m going to come back and kill you’

Christian Davis, 29, is escorted into a courtroom for his arraignment at the Vista Courthouse on March 4.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The driver accused of plowing a large van into a crowd outside an Encinitas bar had moments earlier threatened to come back and kill bouncers who had told him to leave, a prosecutor said Wednesday, March 4.

“He told them, ‘You are gonna regret this. I’m gonna come back and kill you,’” Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Coulter told a Vista judge during the accused driver’s arraignment on multiple felonies.

Minutes later, Coulter said, Christian Dwight Davis came “barreling down the sidewalk” in a U-Haul passenger van, plowing into the crowd in front of The Shelter bar and leaving two patrons seriously injured.

After hearing from Coulter, Superior Court Judge Wendy Behan granted the prosecutor’s request that Davis be held in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Davis, 29, pleaded not guilty Wednesday, March 4, to six charges, including two counts of premeditated attempted murder for allegedly threatening to kill and then targeting the two security guards who had bounced him from the bar being too drunk. Davis could face 20 years to life in prison if convicted of those two counts.

He is also charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon — the van. Two of those three counts include an allegation that Davis caused great bodily injury to the victims.

One of the guards suffered a shoulder injury, and two patrons suffered serious injuries. A 24-year-old man sustained two collapsed lungs, fractured ribs and a broken arm, and a 25-year-old man sustained a leg injury so severe it required three surgeries to restore “functionality” to the limb, the prosecutor said.

About 1 a.m. Sunday, March 1, according to the prosecutor, security guards escorted Davis from Shelter, a bar and restaurant along South Coast Highway in downtown Encinitas. She said Davis tried to go back inside and got into a “verbal confrontation,” culminating with threats from Davis to return and kill the guards.

“Minutes later he was seen driving a U-Haul passenger van,” Coulter said. “He reversed out of a 7-Eleven and he came barreling down the sidewalk in front of Shelter bar right into a crowd of people.”

On the night of the incident, witnesses painted a chaotic scene of people scrambling and glass flying. When the car stopped, people pulled the driver from the van and pinned him to the ground until deputies arrived, witnesses said.

After court Wednesday, March 4, Coulter said she asked for the high bail because Davis could be a safety threat.

“Well, he threatened to murder people and he, moments later, used his vehicle as a deadly weapon,” Coulter told reporters. “We believe he did that intentionally and with forethought. We consider him to be a danger to others.”

Davis is also charged with felony drunken driving.

Coulter said Davis grew up in North Carolina and moved out west three years ago, and was renting a house in Fallbrook at the time of the March 1 incident. She said investigators are not sure if the van belonged to Davis. It had Arizona license plates, and some of his belongings were inside.

Davis is due back in court for his preliminary hearing March 17. Should Davis post bail, the judge required him to abstain from alcohol and wear a special device designed to track alcohol consumption.

— Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune