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Shooting by Deputy Ruled Justified

March 04, 2004|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

The fatal shooting last year of a distraught woman at Point Mugu State Park by a sheriff's deputy was legally justified, the Ventura County district attorney's office said Wednesday.

Deputy Jason Stephens was faced with a "life-or-death decision" when he fired on Nancy Pearlman, who was armed at the time of the March 20, 2003, incident, according to a 42-page report issued by the prosecutor's office.

Stephens "was dealing with an armed, erratic and suicidal woman who appeared to be maneuvering towards the open highway and who was pointing a gun at him," the report said.

Pearlman, 56, of Camarillo was upset over an impending divorce when she drove to the beach parking lot on Pacific Coast Highway with a 9-millimeter handgun, the report said. Police found her after her husband, Gerald, alerted authorities when he found his wife gone and a gun missing.

Peter Williamson, who is representing Pearlman's husband in a civil suit against the county over the shooting, said that he hadn't seen the report. "Based on our examination of the crime scene photographs, we have some serious doubts about the account of the shooting officer," Williamson said.

According to the report, Stephens tried to coax Pearlman out of her vehicle, but she began driving away. After the deputy tried to stop her sport utility vehicle with his patrol car, she started to make a U-turn, then "raised a black firearm and pointed it directly at the senior deputy."

But Williamson said that scenario sounds questionable.

"She was making a U-turn at the time she was shot," Williamson said. "There's some serious questions about whether she could do that and point the gun at the same time."

The next court date in the civil case has not been set.

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