Sheriff’s deputy must stand trial for alleged death threat, judge rules

Following more than two hours of testimony, a judge ruled Tuesday that a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy must stand trial on criminal charges for allegedly holding a gun to another man’s head while off duty.

Richard Heverly, 42, who works at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, must stand trial on four felony counts, ruled Judge Arjuna T. Saraydarian: assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault by a public officer, criminal threats and false imprisonment.

All four charges carry sentencing enhancements because Heverly used a gun.

See also:

Preliminary Hearing for San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Heverly is Postponed

Sheriff’s deputy accused of death threats, gun charges returns to work

Back in court: Sheriff’s depupty accused of assault, threats while off duty

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy Richard Heverly

The man Heverly allegedly threatened testified for about an hour and a half Tuesday in Palm Springs Superior Court about his encounter last year with Heverly, a La Verne resident.

Roger Ross Gilstrap Jr., 33, testified that Heverly handcuffed him, drove a pistol into his head, and flashed his sheriff’s deputy badge, telling Gilstrap the badge “entitles me to do whatever the (expletive) I want to do.”

On Aug. 10, 2008, Gilstrap said he was working as a tow-truck driver for Blythe Freeway Towing, Inc.

While responding to a call for service, Gilstrap said he saw a smoking big-rig at about 6:15 p.m. on the shoulder of the westbound 10 Freeway about 50 miles east of Indio.

Gilstrap, of Blythe, testified that he maneuvered his truck to block the shoulder and right lane of the two-lane freeway. He testified that he was talking to a California Highway Patrol dispatcher on his cell phone about the burning big-rig.

Heverly’s pickup truck was parked 10 to 15 feet to the left of Gilstrap’s truck, Gilstrap testified.

As Gilstrap remained on the line with CHP and monitored the now-flaming big-rig, he said he noticed Heverly walking towards him, flashing something he couldn’t see clearly and saying something he couldn’t hear.

Gilstrap said Heverly, wearing a white tank-top and shorts, approached and told him to get off the phone. Gilstrap told Heverly he was on the phone with the highway patrol, Gilstrap testified.

Heverly repeated his command, sometimes using profanity, and Gilstrap repeated his response, keeping his cell phone to his ear, Gilstrap testified.

Heverly grabbed Gilstrap’s shirt and tried to pull him out of the truck, but was unsuccessful, Gilstrap testified. He said Heverly went back to his truck and retrieved handcuffs and again demanded that Gilstrap leave his truck.

Either before or after Heverly retrieved the handcuffs - Gilstrap said he couldn’t remember the exact sequence of events - Heverly grabbed Gilstrap’s cell phone and disconnected the call.

Heverly, now holding handcuffs, again demanded that Gilstrap get off his truck. Gilstrap said he again refused, and Heverly returned to his truck and retrieved a handgun from a black bag on his dashboard.

Heverly pointed the gun at Gilstrap and again demanded that he leave the truck. This time Gilstrap complied, he testified.

Heverly grabbed Gilstrap’s right arm and handcuffed his wrist, cutting Gilstrap’s wrist, Gilstrap testified.

“My hand immediately went numb,” he said.

He said Heverly then walked him to the back of his tow truck and brandished his handgun.

“He put his pistol in my ear and started pushing me down over my (truck) bed,” Gilstrap testified.

Heverly forced Gilstrap’s head onto the bed of his truck, Gilstrap testified, and twisted the barrel of the gun into Gilstrap’s head.

“Do you feel that?” Heverly asked, according to Gilstrap’s testimony. “I have a (expletive) gun to your head and I will kill you.”

Shortly after, fire trucks approached the scene of the burning big rig, and when Heverly noticed them coming his demeanor changed, Gilstrap testified.

He walked Gilstrap back to the driver’s side of the tow truck and told Gilstrap he would take the handcuffs off. He asked Gilstrap if he was going to do anything after the handcuffs were removed, Gilstrap testified.

“Not until CHP gets here,” Gilstrap said he responded.

Heverly repeated his question - this time with an angrier, more aggravated tone - and Gilstrap repeated his response, Gilstrap testified.

They repeated the exchange a third time before Heverly took off the handcuffs, Gilstrap testified.

After Gilstrap left the witness stand, three California Highway Patrol officers involved in the investigation of Heverly’s alleged crimes testified.

Officer Brandon Reynolds testified that he arrived at the burning-big-rig scene at about 6:30 p.m., and noticed that Gilstrap’s right wrist - which Heverly handcuffed - was bleeding and swollen.

The officer said that when he recovered Heverly’s gun, it had a full magazine but did not have a bullet in the chamber.

Reynolds testified that he asked Heverly why he handcuffed Gilstrap and held and gun to Gilstrap’s head.

Heverly responded that he felt threatened by Gilstrap when Gilstrap turned toward him. Gilstrap was as big, if not bigger, than Heverly, Heverly said, according to Reynolds’ testimony.

The other two CHP officers who testified Tuesday repeated witnesses’ accounts of the events, and testified about details contained in audio recordings of Gilstrap’s phone calls to CHP dispatchers.

After the hearing, Heverly and his attorney, Michael Schwartz, declined to comment. When asked to elaborate on Heverly’s feelings of being threatened by Gilstrap, Schwartz responded: “You’ll find out at trial.”

He prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Joanna Daniels, said she didn’t believe Heverly’s statement about Gilstrap being a threat is credible.

Heverly is set to next appear in court on March 3.

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