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Camp Pendleton Marine who was fatally stabbed in San Diego honored with full military burial

A Marine Honor Guard carries the body of Lance Cpl. Ryan Harris, 21, on Jan. 9, in Sacramento. Harris, 21, was killed on Dec. 29 in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter trying to break up a fight.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RHONDA CAMPBELL

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 10, 2018

Just as 40 Marines from Camp Pendleton led a procession to the graveside ceremony for Lance Cpl. Ryan Harris on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at a Sacramento cemetery, the skies opened up in a downpour.

“We didn’t mind, we did what we needed to do,” Rhonda Campbell, Harris’ cousin, said after the ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 people. “On one of the saddest occasions of our lives, these Marines bestowed such a sense of pride on us. Ryan left home as a boy and became a man as a Marine.”

Harris, 21, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2015 and served as an automotive mechanic with the 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton.

He was buried with full military honors at Sunset Lawn, Chapel of the Chimes. His commanding officer presented a folded flag to Harris’ grandfather, Larry Holt, who raised him from infancy. He gave a second flag to Harris’ wife, Amber. The ceremony included a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”

Beyond family and friends and a busload of Marines from his unit, teachers and coaches from Harris’ youth in the small Northern California town of Elverta also came out to honor him.

“It was a great testament to Ryan’s life,” Campbell said. “In his short 21 years, he touched a lot of lives.”

Harris was killed Dec. 29 in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter as he tried to break up a fight, police said.

The fight occurred around 1 a.m. as Harris, three other Marines from Camp Pendleton and a friend from Elverta were heading to a parking lot looking for their car.

Surveillance cameras from that night helped San Diego Deputy District Attorney Chris Lawson and local detectives piece together the events of how Harris was killed.

The two suspects in Harris’ death — Jose Oscar Esqueda, 30, and Jeff Shai Holliday, 24, both of San Diego — have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder, assault and conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with the three victims. They are expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 25 and are being held without bail.

Both men have a criminal history. Esqueda served prison time in 2000 after being convicted for selling marijuana; he went to prison again in 2014 following a domestic violence conviction, Lawson said. Holliday pleaded guilty to battery with serious bodily injury in 2014 and was on parole at the time of the incident in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In April, both men were charged with two other conspiracies to commit robbery and are awaiting trail, Lawson said.

“Based on their predatorial behavior from the two April incidents and in conjunction with the severity of this incident and criminal history, we believe they are threat to the community,” Lawson said.

The cameras showed Esqueda and Holliday were on the prowl for someone to rob when they came across one of the Marines who had been separated from his group while using his cellphone, Lawson said.

“Christopher De Herrera got bumped by Esqueda,” Lawson said. “Then Holliday comes from behind and sucker punches him. The others who were already crossing the street heard the commotion and run back to help their friend.”

Esqueda began stabbing people and sliced Harris’ aorta, causing him to bleed out in the street, Lawson said.

Harris’ friend Andrew Haulman was stabbed in the back and abdomen by Esqueda, Lawson said. He survived his injuries after undergoing surgery.

“He ran into chaos,” Lawson said of Harris. “He did what a Marine would do.”

Campbell said now that Harris has been laid to rest, the family will focus on what happened to him. She intends to meet with Lawson in the next week.

“Our guys are risking their lives overseas to defend this country and come back home and are killed on our own soil,” she said.

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©2018 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com
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