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Injured officers forgive Lakeside shooter in court

Two sheriff’s deputies who were seriously wounded in a Lakeside gun battle with a rifle toting suspect told him Oct. 17 they both forgave him after one of them said he saw Jesus Christ appear before him after he was shot.

Injured officers forgive Lakeside shooter in court

Two sheriff’s deputies who were seriously wounded in a Lakeside gun battle with a rifle toting suspect told him Oct. 17 they both forgave him after one of them said he saw Jesus Christ appear before him after he was shot.

Sheriff’s detective Ali Perez and Sgt. Craig Johnson told this to Daniel Robert Witczak, 31, minutes before Witczak was sentenced to two life terms plus 80 years consecutively in state prison.

“I forgive you. I’m not angry at you,” said Perez to Witczak. “I really hope you take this opportunity to turn your life to Christ.”

“I have forgiven you,” said Johnson who wears a cross around his neck that is crafted from a bullet fragment recovered from his chest.

Witczak gave no response to the men he nearly killed on Sept. 25, 2012 after they came to his unit in the Mapleview Apartments in Lakeside. They wanted to question him about cell phone images that depicted Witczak molesting his girlfriend’s two daughters.

On March 21, Perez told a courtroom audience he saw Jesus Christ appear between him and Witczak in the apartment after Witczak shot him.             Perez testified Jesus told him to bless Witczak. 

Perez testified at the preliminary hearing that he said “God bless you, brother,” and Witczak laid down his rifle and went into another room. This allowed Perez to crawl to the door and open it so he could be taken to a hospital. 

“I’m only alive because of Jesus,” said Perez to reporters after the sentencing. “It wasn’t an imagination. It wasn’t a vision. I’m here to testify the miracle that on my dying breath Jesus Christ came down and saved my life.”

Witczak pleaded guilty to two attempted murders, and two counts of committing lewd acts on the girls on Oct. 17 before El Cajon Superior Court Judge William McGrath. The plea agreement called for immediate sentencing and Witczak was fined $10,434. 

Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler said Witczak received two 25 years to life terms for the shootings plus two 15 years to life terms consecutively. The two life terms were imposed consecutively for premeditated attempted murder. 

“What’s truly amazing is that both of these officers have forgiven him. That’s amazing considering how their lives have changed,” said Mosler. “They were happy in their jobs and now they can’t do those jobs because of the injuries they sustained from him.”

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said both men remain sheriff’s deputies, currently on paid medical leave.

El Cajon mother of drowned toddlers ordered to stand trial

An El Cajon mother of two drowned toddlers in a backyard pool and her friend were ordered Oct. 18 to stand trial for two counts of child endangerment, cultivation of marijuana, and possession of marijuana for sale.

Tassie Anne Behrens, 27, and Lawrence Richard Dangelo, 44, of La Mesa, heard evidence against them in a day-long preliminary hearing before El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson. A trial date will be set on Oct. 31.

According to testimony, Behrens woke up at 9:45 a.m. on May 13 and discovered her two children floating unconscious in the backyard pool of a house where she was staying temporarily on Sunset Ave. in La Mesa. 

She pulled Harley Bradford, 1, and Jason Bradford, 2, out of the pool and drove them to a fire station. Paramedics worked on both children, but both died in a hospital. Behrens initially said they drowned in a mobile home park, part of a cover story so authorities would not find 60 marijuana plants growing in Dangelo’s home.

Deputy District Attorney Chantal De Mauregne said if Behrens is convicted of all charges, she could face a maximum prison term of 13 years and four months. Dangelo is also charged with grand theft and methamphetamine possession.

 

Both pleaded not guilty. Behrens remains in jail on $500,000 bail, while Dangelo is free on $50,000 bond.

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