Eureka resident Brandon Matthew Watson, accused of stabbing a man to death in Arcata and stabbing and seriously injuring two men in Eureka, has been ordered to stand trial on all charges.

Today visiting Judge Marilyn Miles held Watson to answer for murder with personal use of a knife in the October 2018 death of Peter “Bo” Triantos and for assault with a deadly weapon in the February 2016 stabbing of Brian Joseph Edwards and Antony Besselieu-Hill.

Both incidents occurred after bar fights provoked by Watson allegedly walking up to the victims and bragging about gang membership. The 26-year-old Triantos was stabbed four times during an alley fight near the The Jam in Arcata, and Edwards and Besselieu-Hill were knifed multiple times during an alley fight outside The Pearl bar in Eureka.

Arcata Police Department Detective Luke Scown, who interviewed eyewitness Sage Rios, testified Rios told him he and Triantos stepped outside the Jambalaya to smoke when they were approached by a man who “made comments about gang-banging and demanded 40 dollars and said he was a Eureka Crip.” 

“Bo laughed at him,” Scown said under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham.

Watson, whom Rios later identified in a photograph, responded by “sucker-punching” Triantos. A group fight then ensued outside the The Jam but it was quickly broken up.

Triantos was angry enough he wanted to continue the fight, and both men and Rios began walking north up H Street. Video surveillance footage shows what appears to be Triantos slapping Watson’s white hat off his head, and Watson picking it up.

Defense attorney Andrea Sullivan, cross-examining the detective, asked whether knocking the hat off was a provocative act.

“I would say it was assaultive behavior,” Scown said.

Eyewitness Rios told police that once Triantos and Watson began fighting in the alley, Watson “tagged him three times,” with a knife. Triantos pulled up his shirt to reveal blood gushing from multiple wounds. He was later pronounced dead at Mad River Community Hospital.

Scown also interviewed Watson, who was arrested a couple of days later in Eureka. Watson had a black eye and possibly one bruise on his body.

“He told me that he had been jumped by — I believe — he said six people,” the detective said. Watson also recalled seeing blood gushing from Triantos’ body.
“Mr. Watson said he went into survival mode and was defending himself,” Scown testified

Watson, 27, also claimed he had been knocked out.

Triantos’ parents wept during some of the testimony, including Scown’s account of when he went to Mad River Hospital and saw Triantos, “who in my experience appeared to be deceased.” 

Video footage shows no evidence of six people in the vicinity when Triantos, Rios and Watson entered the alleyway. The camera didn’t capture the actual stabbing but shows Rios and Triantos leaving, with Triantos hunched over and Rios trying to help him.

The other alleged stabbing incident began in a similar way. Edwards and Besselieu-Hill were standing outside The Pearl in Old Town after drinking there for a few hours.

Besselieu-Hill, a jail correctional officer at the time, was telling his friend gang activity was increasing in Humboldt County, and he was seeing more and more 18th Street gang members arrested. Watson apparently overheard the conversation.

“Fuck 18th Street,” Edwards recalls Watson saying as he walked up to them. “I’m Southside Crip.”

Edwards said Watson began talking to them as though they needed an education on gangs, and he got tired of it.

“I said ‘I don’t give a shit, dude’ and I turned away from him,” Edwards said under questioning by the prosecutor. “That’s when he punched me.”

He took Watson to the ground and “was getting the best of him,” he recalled, when a bouncer from The Pearl came outside and broke it up. Edwards and Bessilieu-Hill were escorted out the back door of the bar. It closed and locked behind them.

“There was a group of people with Brandon Watson, I would say at least four other people. They attacked us and the door was locked behind us, so we had nowhere to go.”

Watson came at him, Edwards recalled, and swung at him but missed.

“I ducked under his punch and took him to the ground,” Edwards said.

He recalls being punched and kicked. When he was able to get up and start walking down the alley, he realized his clothing was soaked with blood. He saw Besselieu-Hill, who said “I got stabbed.”

“And that’s when I realized I’d been stabbed too.”

Edwards was knifed four times in the back and spent 10 days in the hospital. At one point during testimony he removed his shirt and showed the judge and attorneys his scars.

Under cross-examination by Sullivan, Edwards said he and Besselieu-Hill “both got attacked at the same time by the whole group.”

When they exited The Pearl, he said, Watson was standing directly in front of the back door.

He repeated that Watson swung at him and missed.

“He picks a lot of fights,” Edwards said, “but he’s not very good at it.”

He believes he was stabbed while lying on top of Watson, punching him, after he took him to the ground.

“Mr. Watson reached around you and hit you in the back while you had him on the ground?” Buckingham asked.

Edwards said yes, “My whole back is basically scars now.”

As for Besselieu-Hill, he had to spend eight days in the hospital. His account was very similar to Edwards’ except he remembers Watson calling himself a Sureño Crip. Also, he watched Watson stab him from behind.

Under cross-examination, he recalled “the door locked out there, and being alone with the defendant and a few other people.” He can’t identify who the other attackers were, “but I do remember the defendant stabbing me. I was stabbed 10 times.”

The knifing occurred toward the end of the fist fight, Besselieu-Hill said, when the other people with Watson were about 10 feet away.

“I had my back to the defendant and he stabbed me in the back,” he said. The knife thrusts felt “like weak punches.”

“Can you fully say that it was Mr. Watson?” Sullivan asked. Besselieu-Hill said he saw Watson “in my peripheral vision.”

“I saw the knife in his hand,” Besselieu-Hill said.

After testimony concluded, Sullivan asked Miles to dismiss the charges involving Edwards, who didn’t see Watson stab him. She also argued Watson shouldn’t be held to answer for murder in Triantos’ death, as the prosecution did not prove malice and Watson acted either “in self-defense or under extreme provocation.”

Watson’s arraignment on the charges is set for April 17.