05 Oct Nathan Hochman, Candidate for L.A. County District Attorney, Urges Gov. Newsom to Reject Parole for Man Who Executed Chaplain, Shot Deputy in the Face
Nathan Hochman, Candidate for L.A. County District Attorney, Urges Gov. Newsom to Reject Parole for Man Who Executed Chaplain, Shot Deputy in the Face
D.A. Gascon Refuses to Send Prosecutors to Parole Hearings, So Hochman Appeals Directly to Governor
LOS ANGELES / October 5, 2023 – Nathan Hochman, former U.S. Assistant Attorney General, federal prosecutor, L.A. City Ethics Commission President and leading candidate for L.A. County District Attorney, today wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to reverse a parole board’s recommendation to grant parole to a man who murdered a Los Angeles County sheriff’s chaplain and shot a sheriff’s deputy in the face.
Derek Eugene Pettis was convicted in 1996 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.
A L.A. County judge sentenced Pettis to 30 years to life in prison for Mr. Bryan’s murder and an additional life term for the attempted murder of Deputy Wenger.
On Sept. 6, 2023, the Board of Parole Hearings shockingly recommended that Pettis be granted an early parole. No representative of the D.A.’s Office was present at the parole hearing because D.A. George Gascon prohibits prosecutors from attending the hearings.
Hochman sent a letter today to Newsom urging the governor to overturn the parole board’s decision and deny parole for Pettis. To view Hochman’s letter to the governor, click here.
“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.
Hochman noted in his letter that Pettis has continued to violate the law while in custody, as deputies found a jail-made knife, known as a “shank,” in Pettis’ cell before his trial.
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.
Under California law, Newsom has the authority to reject a parole recommendation and keep violent offenders behind bars.
“I am strongly opposed to Pettis’ release from prison, which would create a miscarriage of justice and a genuine danger to the community,” Hochman said in his letter to Newsom. “I respectfully request that you reverse the hearing panel’s recommendation and deny parole for Pettis.”
About Nathan Hochman
Nathan Hochman is the leading candidate for District Attorney of Los Angeles County. A former U.S. Assistant Attorney General, federal prosecutor, and Los Angeles City Ethics Commission President, Hochman was born and raised in Los Angeles. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and earned his law degree from Stanford Law School. He then clerked for a federal judge in Los Angeles before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. In that capacity, Hochman prosecuted more than 100 cases, ranging from narcotics trafficking and violent gang crimes to public corruption, money laundering, and environmental crimes. In 2008, Hochman was appointed by the President and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Attorney General overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division, where he led over 350 attorneys. He has been one of the nation’s leading criminal justice and tax attorneys for over two decades. Mr. Hochman has received endorsements from five former U.S. Attorneys for the Central District of California and Steve Cooley, the former three-term District Attorney of Los Angeles County.
Media contact: Stuart Pfeifer