San Luis Obispo firefighter’s ethics under fire

September 18, 2012

John Ryan Mason


A former friend and neighbor of John Ryan Mason testified Monday that the San Luis Obispo firefighter had an affair with his wife, and then asked him if they should fight about the illicit relationship. Mason is on trial facing charges of felony assault stemming from a bar brawl.

San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy Brian Villa said that he and Mason had been good friends for about 20 years, even purchasing homes on the same street, before he discovered Mason had been intimate with his wife.

“He had an affair with my wife,” Villa said responding to a question of why he ended his friendship with Mason. “I didn’t agree with his lifestyle.”

Villa said Mason approached him in 2011 while both of their children and Mason’s wife stood nearby. Mason said because their children played together they needed to get along, Villa said. Mason turned to walk away when Villa said he was not done talking.

Villa testified Mason then asked him if they were supposed to fight. The incident, however, ended without a physical altercation.

Nevertheless, shortly after Mason allegedly beat Jory Brigham, 32, unconscious in a bathroom at Pappy McGregor’s on June 4, 2011, he approached Villa’s cousin, Travis Mello, who was attending a birthday celebration at Mo Tav, and told him repeatedly that they needed to talk, Mello testified.

Mello said he had nothing to say to Mason and asked him to leave him alone. Mason suggested they settle the issue outside when Mello said that he felt threatened, stood up and put a hand on Mason’s chest.

Mason then allegedly pushed Mello into a mirror, shattering it and cutting his back. The fight escalated with Mason pulling Mello’s shirt over his head, trapping him. A friend of Mello’s stepped in to hold Mason back, but when he let Mason go he allegedly jumped on Mello.

Bouncers then escorted the two from the bar. While in the parking lot, Mello said that Mason again challenged him to fight while Mason’s wife stood nearby weeping.

“I am not a fool,” Mello said. “He knows police officers and he could turn it around on me.”

Mason’s attorney, Chris Casciola, asked why Mello had not told the police about the broken mirror, the cut on his back, or the ripped shirt when questioned back in 2011. Mello said that he was worried that the fight could have cost him his job at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant if he was found responsible.

Mason is charged with felony assault with great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury in the alleged attack of Brigham.



This article is chilling. Mason needs to be taken off the streets.

Travis Mello hit the nail on the head when he testified “I am not a fool, He knows police officers and he could turn it around on me.” The various public safety agencies in SLO County have long been entitled and corrupt and they have gotten away with it because they’ve long had local media in the back pocket. Thank goodness for CCN.

Now that we are getting a glimpse of the dirt it’s both chilling and nauseating. Work for a public safety agency in SLOC? Don’t worry, you can do no wrong. Someone will be there to cover your backside no matter how bad it gets. How many violent incidences was Mason involved in where he was never arrested? Seven? That’s simply unacceptable.

On the other hand if you don’t work for a public safety agency (or are not otherwise a privileged insider) you’re at the mercy of ever more aggressive, arrogant, obtuse and entitled public safety employees. It’s getting mighty old, folks.

I hope this case not only leads to Mason’s conviction, I hope it’s a beginning of a huge and long overdue enema for all public safety agencies in SLOC. You’re not fooling anyone anymore. It’s time to clean this county up. Let’s start with investigating why it took FIVE days to arrest Mason…


Crusader: You have written some very powerful words, most of which I agree with, not this: “On the other hand if you don’t work for a public safety agency (or are not otherwise a privileged insider) you’re at the mercy of ever more aggressive, arrogant, obtuse and entitled public safety employees. It’s getting mighty old, folks.” That is over the top, IMO. Do you really believe that all public safety employees are “aggressive, arrogant, obtuse and privileged”? I really feel for you is that is your belief; I’m reasonably sure that there maybe a few, possibly even “some” that may come close to what you have described, but there is no way I can believe that there is even a majority of PSEs that are what you describe.

I do get tired of seeing firefighters and police officers being demonized just because of their profession; you want to criticize their actions in certain incidents, perhaps for their attitude at times, fine, go ahead, but just because they are doing their job is no reason to consider all of them “bad apples”.


I agree with you bob but here is the downside. They have a “brotherhood” and they cover for each other even when they feel that one of their own has crossed the line, falsified his report, etc especially where brutality against a citizen is concerned. They may not like it but they will still cover for each other, it’s the unwritten rule.

Unless they have a bad apple that is continuously damaging the reputation of the rest of the force, or frequently jeopardizing other officers jobs, the public is at the mercy of that bad apple and his brothers who cover for him until they (his colleagues) “collectively decide” that enough is enough.


Not “all”, no, but far, far too many. There shouldn’t be any at all.

I think there are some fine individuals that serve in public safety positions in SLOC but there are some real pieces of garbage too. The actions of those pieces of garbage resonate all too strongly throughout all of public safety.

If Mason picked a fight with me in Downtown SLO I would have the exact same concerns that Mr. Mello did. Without question I would expect the responding law enforcement officers to heavily favor Mason even if a roomful of witnesses made it clear that Mason was the source of the trouble because he is a city firefighter. Absolutely no question at all in my mind.

I suppose what concerns me most are two things. First it seems like more and more of the public safety employees I observe do indeed come across as “aggressive, arrogant, obtuse and privileged.” That might well be just me but I rather doubt it. I suspect the ludicrously high compensation packages and early retirements are attracting an entirely different sort of individual to public safety and it’s not all for the good.

Go sit on a bench in Downtown SLO for an hour and simply observe law enforcement. Notice what and how they drive, notice how they come into contact with people and what they look like (in terms of shades, uniforms, etc.) Then go spend an hour sitting on a bench in Downtown Los Angeles. Observe the same variables for an LAPD Metro officer. The difference is striking.

Second and even more distressing is how members of the different public safety departments cover for one another even at elevated levels. Why wasn’t Mason arrested during one or more of the seven other situations he was involved in where law enforcement was called? Why did it take five days to finally arrest him? I doubt we’ll ever know. That sort of stuff paints ALL local public safety with a very dirty brush.


QUOTING BOB FROM SLO: “I do get tired of seeing firefighters and police officers being demonized just because of their profession;…

I don’t think anyone believes that all first responders are like Mason.

However, there have been ZERO first responders who have publicly spoken out against Mason’s actions, and that is really, really, REALLY of concern because it can be easily viewed as tacit approval.

In addition, no one, to my knowledge, has publicly spoken out against the SLOCity PD and FD waiting FIVE DAYS before they brought in Mason for questioning, giving him plenty of time to destroy evidence, consult with union and city attorneys, talk to his co-workers, and get his story straight.

What is worse, questioning Mason FIVE DAYS after the assault occurred is much better than SLOCity PD and FD have done before when he beat down a civilian…in prior cases, the SLOPD and FD did NOTHING, which allowed Mason to continue violently attacking civilians in the very city whose taxpayers pay Mason’s salary.

Finally, the worst of all is, to my knowledge, no first responder has spoken out against Mason’s practice of viciously beating down a civilian, causing serious injuries, and then running away, leaving his victim injured, without any medical care.

Mason is a first-responder, yet he runs away from a severely injured man and can’t even be bothered to notify other first responders that there is a man down who needs medical care.

To me, that shines a beacon of light on how seriously our local first responders take their responsibilities to do what they can to help the injured.


I feel sorry for this jerk’s wife. He has cheated on her, lost his job, and is in the process of wiping out his families savings paying for his legal defense. He will (hopefully) do time. And when he is released from prison he will look forward to a job working for a moving company or mowing lawns. Hopefully she will cut her losses and leave him.

Mr. Holly

But you forgot that he is a SLO fireman. Before this is all over we will have a case similar to Chief Solomon in Paso Robles. There will be cause that he has inhaled some hazardous substance which has caused a mental disorder. There will be a cash settlement and of course the lucrative retirement benefits will also be awarded. Please don’t laugh. Just wait and see, it’s the norm these days. It’s always somebody elses fault-like us taxpayers.


Wow Mr. Holly. I wish I could say NO WAY, that would never happen… but after the Chittygate debacle, I’m not so sure. Lisa took early retirement AND filed a workers comp claim; I wonder if Mason can legally do that, also. (??)

I’ve always taught my kids that cops and firemen are selfless heroes but local cases like Bullygate (Mason) and Chittygate (Lisa) have really bummed me out. :(


You seem to forget that Ryan Mason is NOT the Chief, like Lisa Solomon, he is a fireman, period. Some seem obsessed with the idea that the union is going to step in and protect this man from any and all charges that could be brought against him; the union is there to make sure that any action taken by management is in accordance with the labor agreement both parties signed. The city will be well within its rights to terminate the employment of Mr. Mason once the trial is over. I cannot believe for a second that the city will find itself needing to “pay off” Ryan Mason to get him to leave; I hope that I am not disappointed.


QUOTING BOB FROM SLO: ” I cannot believe for a second that the city will find itself needing to “pay off” Ryan Mason to get him to leave; I hope that I am not disappointed.

Two words: “Lisa Solomon.”


There are two things that make me think/hope the SLOFD won’t “pull a Solomon” and write Mason a big fat check to get rid of him.

1. There has been sufficient coverage of Mason’s violent assault—AND (thanks to CNN) the coverage has included the fact that this assault was not Mason’s first against a citizen AND that he has been given free passes before by the SLOFD and the SLOPD—that the city does not want to deal with the huge public outrage that would result from “pulling a Solomon” with Mason.

2. It is now publicly known that, not only did Mason beat down Brigham to the ground, causing multiple facial fractures which required plating and wiring, but Mason (at the time, a first-responder) fled the scene of his attack without ensuring Brigham would be treated by another first-responder.

I think these are two big issues the city just can’t maneuver around. They screwed up, big time, in their handling of Mason–over years and multiple assaults on civilians. They have to make him pay now or incur the wrath of the people.


And as apathetic and SLO can be it’s not Paso Robles. Big difference between the two communities. This is also being adjudicated for the record. That did not happen in Paso. Further, this is coming to light in the wake of Chittygate. People are getting darned tired of entitled and corrupt public safety employees…


As the late “Dear Abby” columnist said: “There are no unwilling doormats.”


I suppose this clown is still on the SLOFD payroll as he was for months before the trial. Hopefully he will be terminated but don’t bet on it!!


In a previous article CCN indicated some time previously the FD put Mason on unpaid administrative leave.


I remember reading that here, too. However, in a Tribloon story at about the same time, the Trib asserted that he had been reassigned to administrative duties, not that he had been put on unpd admin leave.


Yes–I recall reading that he was on admin leave but it was paid (?) Just doesn’t seem fair… If it had been any of us common folks, we would’ve been arrested the SAME night and probably lost our jobs in the private sector…


This is the sequence as I remember it.

1. Right after the beat-down, Mason was put on desk duty.

2. After CCN broke the story and all heII broke loose on the message boards and other public opinion venues, Mason was put on paid administrative leave.

3. Then relatively recently, according to the CCN found out that, some time previously, AFTER Mason had been put on PAID administrative leave, the PAID administrative leave had been changed to UNPAID administrative leave.


Here is the url to the CCN article which specifies the status was, as of August 16, UNPAID administrative leave:


Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you clarified that b/c I just couldn’t remember.

Interesting, isn’t it…how Mason was put on unpaid admin leave (though not soon enough) yet ex-Chief Lisa remained on the job for many months and only “took time off” toward the very bitter end…. Imagine accusing her of groping you then having to clock in daily under her vindicitive, watchful eye! Yipes. Anyway I hope Crusader’s right. I hope other cities learned something from Chittygate.


It sounds like Mason suffers from TT Syndrome. Total turd.


The big question is why is Mason so hyped up and aggressive all the time? Drugs or steroids?


its his nature…he’ll kill somebody eventually if given the opportunity


Seems like someone who needs therapy!


How did this bozo miss out on working for the Sheriff’s Dept??


Give him time, maybe Parkinson is waiting until the trial is over to hire him


What is the problem with Parkinson? He been in charge for less than a year yet has total buy-in with anything negative about the department? I say this because many years ago when he was a patrol officer I was very impressed by his hard work and professional demeanor in dealing with some ongoing problems at a property owned by my employers. I was not surprised that he rose fast, with some help from a wave of retirements, at the SLOPD and is now County Sheriff.


Probably couldn’t pass the psyche test which means that he is “way out there”…..


Who are the women that get involved with this guy? He’s not much of a catch, imho.


Those women used him like a tool and he was there boy toy.


I think Mason’s out-of-control violence is secondary to steroid use. If that is the case, while the toy may have wanted to play, the ability of the toy to perform would be compromised because of the steroids.


Mason seems like a terrific guy!


Yeah, I bet the local defense attorneys just love him.