Update, November 19, 12:35 p.m.: Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has issued a statement about the charges filed against two men Thursday for the murder of Sgt. Ira Gabor Essoe, Jr. in 1980.
"The criminal justice system will not let the passage of time protect the men who brutally shot and killed Sergeant Ira Essoe," Hutchens says. ". . . He dedicated his life to protecting the public and now we seek justice for his family."
The complete statement follows:
PRESS RELEASEJUSTICE FOR SERGEANT IRA ESSOEOrange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens praised the investigators and prosecutors whose investigative efforts culminated in the filing of charges against two men for the murder of Sergeant Ira Essoe.
"Building a case on a shooting that occurred more than three decades ago is no small achievement.
It required hard work and professional dedication," she said.
"The criminal justice system will not let the passage of time protect the men who brutally shot and killed Sergeant Ira Essoe. Sergeant Essoe was a true hero and his death was a loss not only to his family and the Orange County Sheriff's Department but to the public. He dedicated his life to protecting the public and now we seek justice for his family."
"Sergeant Essoe, like all of those who died in the line of duty as members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, will forever live in our hearts. We all offer our support to his family, his children and his widow."
Sergeant Essoe was shot on November 6, 1980 while attempting to rescue his partner from three armed men who were in the act of stealing a car. Sergeant Essoe was paralyzed and never fully recovered. His wife Ramona cared for him for 29 ½ years as his health deteriorated due to the gunshot wounds. His death on February 4, 2010 was determined to be a homicide, a death in the line of duty.
Original Post, November 19, 11:34 a.m.: Orange County Sheriff's deputy Ira Gabor Essoe and a partner were in plain clothes in an Orange mall's parking lot when they confronted by a man who ordered them to drop their weapons. As Essoe complied, he was shot twice in the back, paralyzing him for life. That was in 1980, when Essoe was 40. After dealing with severe medical complications, including the amputation of both legs, over the next 30 years, he died in February of a blood disease caused by bed sores.
On Thursday, the men who'd been convicted, imprisoned and paroled a decade ago for trying to kill the deputy were arrested and charged with what authorities characterize as Essoe's 2010 murder.
"Under the law, there is no statute of limitations on murder if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act resulted in a death," explains the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) statement on the Orange Police Department arrests of David Michael Knick, 54, of Yucca Valley, and Robert Duston Strong, 55, of Riverside.
Each has been charged with one felony count each of murder and were being held on $1 million bail apiece leading into an arraignment hearing this morning in Santa Ana.
If convicted, each could get up to 25 years to life in state prison.
Essoe was remembered at a hero's memorial service in february at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. His eulogy was delivered by Brad Gates, who was sheriff at the time of the shooting.
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Orange County's current Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, had previously presented the deputy's widow, Ramona Essoe, with the department's Purple Heart at the annual Medal of Valor ceremony.
Ira Essoe was the ninth OCSD deputy to die in the line of duty.
The OCDA statement on the charges against Knick and Strong and the circumstances of the case follows after the jump . . .
November 19, 2010
TWO MEN CHARGED WITH MURDER OF ON-DUTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY WHO DIED IN 2010 AS A RESULT OF 1980 SHOOTING
SANTA ANA - Two men previously convicted of attempted murder for shooting an Orange County Sheriff's Deputy in 1980 have been charged with murder after the paralyzed deputy died in 2010 as a direct result of his injuries from 30 years ago. David Michael Knick, 54, Yucca Valley, and Robert Duston Strong, 55, Riverside, are each charged with one felony count each of murder. If convicted they each face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. The People will be requesting the defendants be held on $1 million bail at their arraignment this morning, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, in Department C-J1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.
Circumstances of the 1980 Shooting
In the evening of Nov. 6, 1980, Orange County Sheriff's Deputies Ira Essoe, then-40, and Greg Brown were on-duty in plain clothes in their unmarked patrol vehicle in the parking lot of a mall in Orange. Brown observed three men in the parking lot standing suspiciously in front of a raised hood of a yellow mustang. The three men, Knick, Strong, and David Vogel, 63, Riverside, then closed the hood and walked away.
Minutes later the deputies again observed the three men standing by a black mustang with an open hood. Essoe and Brown stopped their vehicle and approached the men. Brown walked towards the open door on the passenger side of the vehicle as Essoe approached on the driver's side. As the plain-clothes deputies approached, Strong pointed a gun at Brown and demanded he put his firearm on the ground.
Immediately after Brown placed his department-issued weapon on the ground, shots were fired hitting Essoe twice in the back, paralyzing him instantly. Brown took cover behind nearby parked cars. Strong and Knick took the deputies' firearms from the ground, stole their patrol car, and fled the scene. Vogel fled the scene on foot. Witnesses called 911.
Approximately an hour later, Knick and Strong were located by California Highway Patrol and led officers on a high-speed chase. During the chase, the defendants crashed the deputies' patrol car while firing several shots at pursuing officers. Strong and Knick were arrested by police. The Orange Police Department (OPD) investigated the case.
Attempted Murder Convictions
The OCDA filed charges against Knick and Strong. At the time of the crime, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Vogel. Strong was convicted by a jury on July 20, 1981, of one felony count each of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, and unlawful taking of a vehicle, and two felony counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and auto burglary. He was sentenced to 17 years and four months in state prison. He was released in January 1991 after serving approximately 10 years in state prison.
Knick was convicted by a jury on Aug. 20, 1981, of one felony count each of attempted murder, unlawful taking of a vehicle, possession of a firearm by a felon, and two felony counts each of assault with a deadly weapon, and auto burglary. He was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in state prison. He was released in June 1990 after serving approximately 9 years in state prison.
Circumstances of the 2010 Charges
As a direct result of being shot in 1980, Essoe was paralyzed and suffered the next 30 years from severe medical complications that resulted in the amputation of both of his legs. He was bed-ridden, causing bed sores and subsequent blood disease. On Feb. 4, 2010, Essoe died due to sepsis of the blood, a blood disease caused by bed sores. Subsequent medical examinations determined that Essoe's death was directly caused by the shooting in 1980.
Under the law, there is no statute of limitations on murder if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act resulted in a death. In February 2010, OCDA and OPD began investigating Knick and Strong for the murder of Essoe. The OCDA filed murder charges against Strong and Knick yesterday, Nov. 18, 2010. They were arrested by OPD officers later that day.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.