California’s legislation pertaining to young offenders permits individuals who engaged in criminal activities during their youth to present their cases before a parole board for potential early release. Recently, the state has broadened the scope of this law to encompass individuals who were under the age of 26 when they committed their offenses. This expansion has resulted in the early parole of an individual convicted of a serious homicide.
On September 6th, the parole board of California approved parole for Derek Eugene Pettis, a decision that advances his eligibility by 11 years compared to the original schedule. Pettis is currently incarcerated with a life sentence for the homicide of Chaplain Bruce Bryan, a 39-year-old volunteer associated with the Carson Sheriff Station in Los Angeles County. Pettis was 24 years old at the time of the crime.
In 1994, during one evening, Bryan, accompanied by Deputy Terrence Wenger, was on patrol. Their patrol led them to a bar where a disturbance had occurred, resulting in the apprehension of Pettis. Surprisingly, instead of transporting Pettis to the detention facility, Deputy Wenger opted to take him to his residence to allow him to sober up. However, upon being released from handcuffs, instead of expressing gratitude, Pettis physically assaulted Deputy Wenger by striking him in the head, seizing his firearm, and ultimately shooting him in the head, with the bullet striking his eye.
Following the shooting of the deputy, Pettis redirected his aggression towards the chaplain, who was desperately trying to flee. Pettis discharged his firearm, hitting Bryan in the back. As Bryan dropped to his knees, the assailant positioned himself above him and fired downward, avoiding the protection of the chaplain’s bulletproof vest and resulting in his tragic demise.
Deputy Wenger sustained the loss of one of his eyes as a consequence of the shooting but continued to serve in the sheriff’s department until his retirement. In a testimony provided to the parole board, he characterized the shooting as exceedingly brutal, sadistic, and merciless.
He cautioned the board about the absence of assurance that Pettis wouldn’t pose a threat to commit further acts of violence. The ultimate decision regarding Pettis’ release now rests with California Governor Gavin Newsom, who will consider the board’s recommendation.