An off-duty Riverside County sheriff's deputy who gunned down an unarmed man during a dispute at a Murrieta bar is slated to be sentenced Thursday to 40 years to life in prison.
Dayle William Long, 44, was convicted Dec. 12 of second-degree murder along with a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation in the 2011 death of 36-year- old Samuel Vanettes of Winchester. A Murrieta jury spent roughly a day deliberating before returning with a verdict.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez is expected to impose the maximum sentence allowed under state law.
According to the prosecution, at least 11 people witnessed the defendant shoot Vanettes at point-blank range inside Spelly's Bar & Grill at 40675 Murrieta Hot Springs Road on the night of Dec. 21, 2011. The victim had gone there with his sister and several friends. Long had joined a retired colleague for drinks at the pub several hours before the attack, witnesses said. During the evening, Vanettes invited the defendant to take part in a game of team darts, which the off-duty lawman did, parting company with his friend and continuing to drink beer and hard liquor, prosecutors said.
Shortly before 8 p.m., Long and Vanettes became embroiled in a seemingly trivial argument about whether a certain street was located in Orange County. Vanettes's friend, Danny Burnside, told investigators that the defendant became belligerent and challenged Vanettes to "go outside" and fight.
Long allegedly stood up, removed a compact .45-caliber handgun from his waistband and leveled it at Vanettes and his friends, then sat back down, according to court papers.
The defendant denied pulling his gun until the actual shooting.
Another of Vanettes's friends became confrontational, shouting at Long and posturing aggressively, a bar patron told detectives.
All witnesses acknowledged that Long began backing away from the table where Vanettes and the group were seated and that Vanettes approached Long in an attempt to defuse the situation.
A bartender told investigators there was some shoving, and while several witnesses described Long as appearing "upset," most witnesses said he was acting "calm" as he backed toward the exit, court papers stated.
The 10-year law enforcement veteran pulled his .45 a second time, leveling it at Vanettes from at least five feet away and firing six times. Long testified that Vanettes attempted to take his pistol from him.
The victim was hit by four bullets -- in the chest, shoulder, abdomen and cheek, according to an autopsy. He died at the scene.
– Reported by City News Service.