“I commend the governor for doing the right thing and standing up for the victims and their families,” Hochman said.
LOS ANGELES, CA, February 05, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — Nathan Hochman, the leading candidate to replace George Gascon as Los Angeles County District Attorney, today praised the decision of Gov. Gavin Newsom to reverse the California Board of Parole Hearings and deny parole for a gang member who murdered a Los Angeles County sheriff’s chaplain and shot and critically wounded a sheriff’s deputy.
Derek Eugene Pettis was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison in 1996 after he was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting to death Bruce Bryan, a 39-year-old volunteer chaplain at the sheriff’s Carson Station, and of attempted premeditated murder for shooting Deputy Terrence Wenger in the eye and leaving him for dead.
On September 6, 2023, the Board of Parole Hearings made the outrageous decision to grant parole to Pettis. The parole board made the decision without input from the District Attorney’s Office because DA Gascon prohibits his prosecutors from participating in parole hearings – leaving victims and their families to fend for themselves.
Hochman was so outraged by the parole board’s decision that he sent a letter to Gov. Newsom on October 5 and urged him to overturn the parole board and keep Pettis behind bars. “There are certain crimes for which parole should not be granted. The cruel, depraved assassination of a volunteer chaplain and the attempted murder of a heroic sheriff’s deputy are two of those crimes,” Hochman said in his letter to the governor.
Newsom followed Hochman’s recommendation and on January 29, 2024, notified Pettis that he had overturned the parole board. A new parole hearing is scheduled for 2025.
“I commend the governor for doing the right thing and standing up for the victims and their families,” Hochman said. “This decision means that Derek Pettis is going to be where he belongs for at least two more years – in prison and away from the streets of Los Angeles County where he mercilessly preyed on his victims. Rest assured, when I am DA, prosecutors from my office will be at the 2025 parole hearing supporting the victims and their families, and protecting the public.”
Hochman’s letter to Newsom urged him to consider new information, not presented to the Parole Board, about how Pettis had been found to have a jail-made knife, commonly referred to as a “shank,” in his cell at the Los Angeles County jail while awaiting trial. “Pettis has been a danger even while incarcerated,” Hochman said in the letter.
In addition to his own letter, Hochman encouraged his supporters to urge Newsom to overturn the parole board, providing a link on his website to write the governor directly. Hochman also wrote an opinion column for the Santa Clarita Signal newspaper about the Pettis case.
Mr. Bryan was known to many as “the chaplain of the ‘hood,” because of his work counseling youthful offenders, often while on ride-alongs with sheriff’s deputies in the Carson area. Deputy Wenger had worked on a sheriff’s gang detail before he received a patrol assignment at the Carson Station in 1993.
In the early morning of June 18, 1994, while riding with Mr. Bryan, Deputy Wenger detained Pettis after he was reportedly involved in a disturbance. In an act of compassion, Deputy Wenger chose not to take Pettis to jail and instead drove him to a motel in the Wilmington area of the City of Los Angeles.
After Deputy Wenger opened the rear door of his patrol car and let Pettis go, Pettis savagely attacked him, knocking him to the ground. A witness said the deputy’s head hit a curb and he became unconscious. Pettis then removed Deputy Wenger’s firearm and shot him in the face with the intention of killing him.
Pettis then turned and fired several shots at the patrol car, where Mr. Bryan was seated in the front passenger seat. Moments later, Mr. Bryan emerged from the car and began running away. Pettis pursued Mr. Bryan and aimed the gun at him as he pleaded for his life, saying: “Please don’t shoot me! Please don’t shoot me!” according to the testimony of a witness. Instead of showing mercy, Pettis fired several more shots, killing the volunteer chaplain who was wearing a jacket with the word, “CLERGY,” printed on the back.
Deputy Wenger survived but required multiple surgeries to reconstruct the right side of his face and remove his right eye, which was destroyed in the shooting. He heroically returned to work with the Sheriff’s Department and retired as a lieutenant.
About Nathan Hochman:
Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney General and President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, is the leading candidate to replace George Gascon as District Attorney of Los Angeles County. He is an Independent (No Party Preference) candidate who believes politics has no place in the D.A.’s Office. For more information about Hochman and his campaign, please visit www.NathanHochman.com.
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