by Neal Putnam
An alleged hit-and-run driver accused of killing Cheers bartender Joshua Gilliland has been charged with second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
It is unusual for a hit-and-run driver to be charged with murder, but court records show the defendant, Brandon Allen Janik, 37, has been convicted of drunk driving before.
In California, a second DUI is a felony on its own, and if a driver kills someone with a second DUI, the law assumes “implied malice” since the driver knew the dangers. “DUI Murder” became an option after a 1981 California Supreme Court case People v. Watson. Prosecutors also like to argue a second DUI shows a pattern of behavior.
Attorneys made no arguments for bail for Janik when he was arraigned on Sept. 7, so San Diego Superior Court Judge Theodore Weathers declined to set any bail for him.
Gilliland, 47, was struck on June 10 in a marked crosswalk as he was walking to work at 8:46 pm at the three-way intersection of El Cajon Boulevard, Park Boulevard, and Normal Street (See “Finishing Josh’s Walk,” Vol. 4, Issue 19, or online at lgbtqsd.news/finishing-joshs-walk).
Gilliland was knocked unconscious and suffered from a brain bleed with a head wound. He died four days later in a hospital from head trauma.
Janik is believed to have fled the scene in his 2022 BMW, which turned out to be his undoing because he had the damaged vehicle repaired. Janik gave a conflicting story about how the car was damaged and even filed a claim with his car insurance company to pay for the damages, according to court records.
Janik was not arrested until Sept. 5 by San Diego Police in the 3800 block of Seventh Avenue in Hillcrest). He is also charged with hit-and-run with death, and driving under the influence of alcohol with a prior DUI conviction in 2016.
Additionally, he is charged with two counts of presenting a false insurance claim five days after the incident, on June 15, when he had his car repaired, according to court records.
“We haven’t discussed the facts of the case yet and there is still an investigation ongoing,” said Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans. “Given the investigation thus far, [it] shows he was impaired for the purposes of driving.”
Details about the case were not discussed in the arraignment and a preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 15. Because that date is close to Thanksgiving, it may be delayed.
Janik has pleaded not guilty. He lived in North Park and worked at Whole Foods in Hillcrest. He remains in the George F. Bailey Detention Facility without bail.
KFMB-TV (Channel 8) reporter Keristen Holmes interviewed Lisa Kogan, a friend of Gilliland, who said there were “some Good Samaritans” who noticed Janik before the crash and observed he was intoxicated. She said they called 911 because they feared he would get into his car.
“They realized the guy was drunk, told him not to drive,” Kogan said in the interview. “Unfortunately, no [police] units were able to come. Paramedics and firemen were then called.
“Once the emergency services people left, he got back in his car,” Kogan continued. “So, this was something that was preventable.”
Kogan was interviewed by Channel 8 after Janik’s arraignment. Of Gilliland, she said he was “just a sweet, gentle and kind soul.”
A celebration of Joshua Gilliland’s life was held on July 8 in Hillcrest. He worked at Cheers for 21 years after moving to San Diego from Kansas in 2001 with his longtime friend Scott Moore.
There was a vigil on June 15 to “finish Josh’s walk,” in which 100 people attended to draw attention to the intersection where he died, which many describe as dangerous.
The investigation is still active and SDPD requests that if you have any information about the case, reach out to the department at 619-531-2000. If you prefer to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.
–Neal Putnam is a local crime reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].
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