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Ray Avila claims self-defense for fatal punch

Ray Avila claims self-defense for fatal punch

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SIOUX CITY -- A Sioux City man plans to argue at trial that he was acting in self-defense when he fatally punched another man in downtown Sioux City.

Assistant public defender Laury Lau on Monday filed notice that Ray Avila will rely on a defense of self-defense and defense of others for the July 29 death of Peter Johnson. The one-sentence filing did not include any explanation of the events that are the basis of the self-defense argument.

Avila, 24, entered written not guilty pleas in Woodbury County District Court to involuntary manslaughter, assault causing serious injury and flight to avoid prosecution. His trial was scheduled for Aug. 20.

Avila is accused of punching Johnson after a misunderstanding over a car break-in. According to court documents, the car's owner, Juan Espinoza, was trying to break the window of his locked car parked in the 1100 block of Fourth Street when Johnson kicked him, thinking he was trying to rob the car. 

After a scuffle between Johnson and Espinoza, Avila punched Johnson, knocking him to the pavement, court documents said. Johnson died two days later.

An autopsy showed Johnson had suffered a ring fracture in the base of his skull from the impact with the sidewalk.

Avila, who is a U.S. citizen, is believed to have fled Sioux City sometime between July 29 and May 20. He was arrested in May in Mexico, where he had family connections, and was returned earlier this month to Woodbury County to face charges.

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