NORWALK — A Norwalk Superior Court jury has convicted a Bell man of second-degree murder in the shooting of an off-duty sheriff's deputy during an early morning confrontation in Bell.
Jack Dangerfield Jeffries, 43, who will be sentenced March 6, faces 17 years to life in prison for the Sept. 5 shooting of David Lance Holguin, 24, who had been a deputy for less than a year.
Holguin was driving to his Pomona home after working the night shift at the Firestone sheriff's station when he saw a 4-year-old child wandering on the street at 3 a.m. Shortly after, he encountered the boy's father. Jeffries intervened during the officer's questioning of the child's father, pointed a .45-caliber handgun at Holguin and shot him in the face, according to testimony.
During a 10-day trial, Jeffries, a worker at Champion International Corp.'s Federal Envelope factory in Santa Fe Springs, testified that Holguin, who was not in uniform, was badgering the father of the 4-year-old in Spanish, and that Jeffries interceded to protect the boy and his father.
Jeffries said that he did not know Holguin was a deputy, and that he shot Holguin in self-defense after he made a move toward his gun.
But Holguin's parents testified that their son did not speak Spanish, and the 4-year-old's father, Amador Fernandez, testified that Jeffries told the deputy, "I know you're a cop," before shooting him, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert W. Morrell.
The prosecution contended the deputy did not argue with Fernandez or Jeffries, but was inquiring about the child, Morrell said.
In a courtroom demonstration of the shooting, Jeffries, standing with legs apart, held a toy gun with both hands 1 1/2 feet from Morrell's head, Morrell said.
Jeffries testified that he told the deputy to raise his hands and the deputy complied, but that the deputy then dropped a hand and that Jeffries shot him because he thought the deputy was going for his gun, Morrell said. The deputy was carrying a .38-caliber pistol in a holster.
"If you're staring down the muzzle of a .45, would you reach for your gun, especially when you knew cops were on the way?" Morrell said he asked the jury.
He said he believed the jury concluded that Jeffries was "quite obviously a liar."
"I personally think it was a first-degree murder," said Morrell, who is a member of the district attorney's Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit.
"It was a cold-blooded execution."
Defense lawyer Mark Bledstein, who said he planned to appeal, claimed that Jeffries acted in self-defense and shot the officer after he made a move toward his gun.
Disappointed in Verdict
"I'm very disappointed in the verdict," Bledstein said.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to the jurors but from the looks on their faces it was a very difficult decision to make."
Bledstein added that, in his opinion, if the jury found Jeffries guilty, the most he should have been convicted of was manslaughter.
To convict Jeffries of first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 25 years to life, the jury would have to have found that the shooting was premeditated.
Fernandez originally was arrested for the murder after police found his identification cards at the crime scene, but the charges were dropped after Fernandez was questioned, and Jeffries subsequently surrendered.
Holguin, who had been shot once in the face, was found at Florence and Vinevale avenues by the deputy's car that answered his 3:18 a.m. assistance call. The bullet had severed his spinal cord.