Shortly after the ambush of Palmdale Deputy Ryan Clunkinbroomer, who was shot in the head stopped at red light just outside the Palmdale Sheriff’s station, California Governor Gavin Newsom called Clinkunbroomer’s murder “horrific, unconscionable, and shocking” and ordered flags at the state capitol flown at half mast in Clinkunbroomer’s honor.
Just 10 days before, Derek Pettis, a convicted murderer and attempted cop killer was granted parole at his latest suitability hearing. The hearing took place on September 6th, 2023.
Now we must appeal to the Governor to stop Pettis’s release in order to prevent a murderer, who committed the brutal execution style murder of Carson Station Chaplain in cold blood and the attempted murder of a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff.
In the early morning hours of June 18, 1994, following a bar fight and a second disturbance, Deputy Wenger was riding with station Chaplain Bryan and picked up Pettis, a 24-year old known gang member who was involved in two violent incidents, including a bar fight, earlier that evening.
Normally, Deputy Wenger would have dropped him off at the drunk tank to sober up, but since the Chaplain was on the ride along, Wenger opted to take Pettis back to the motel where he was residing at the time.
According to Deputy Wenger, Pettis remained highly angry and aggressive in his gestures and speech and recalls Pettis threatening to kill him when he got out of the car. Wenger had heard similar threats before and did not take it seriously. Wenger also remembers Pettis saying, “F… you, and F you too, Bruce!”
When they arrived at the motel, although Pettis was still highly agitated, Deputy Wenger un-handcuffed him.
Deputy Wenger opened the back door of the patrol car to let the Pettis out, he turned to get back in to the car and was “sucker punched” by the suspect. Deputy Wenger fell to the ground and suffered a severe concussion. The suspect then removed Deputy Wenger’s firearm and shot at him point blank range several times towards his face with the clear intention of killing him.
Wenger survived but was critically wounded with the bullet blowing off the side of his face and destroying one of his eyes.
According to witnesses, Pettis continued his rage shooting at the patrol car where Chaplain Bruce Bryan remained in the passenger seat. Bryan got out and ran and Pettis then turned and aimed the weapon at Chaplain Bryan who raised his hands, pointed down at the lettering on his windbreaker that read, “CHAPLAIN” and said, “Im not a cop, I’m a chaplain!” Pettis shot Bryan in the chest just above his bulletproof vest and then shot him in the back of his head. He then ran off.
At the time of the incident, two LAPD teams were serving simultaneous search warrants in the area. The officers heard the shots and contacted each other over the radio, each team thinking the other team was involved in a shootout.
When the teams were assured they were not involved, they converged on the shooting scene, finding the chaplain dead and Wenger still alive.
EMTs were called and Wenger was rushed to the hospital, where they managed to save his life. A containment was set up and Pettis was caught. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Chaplain Bryan was a full time service volunteer doing the work of God. He visited youthful offenders at juvenile detention facilities, opened his home to troubled men and participated in ride-a-longs several times a week. At the time of his death, Bryan had recently gotten engaged to his longtime girlfriend.
Deputy Wenger, receiving only one bullet wound despite the numerous rounds fired at him, lost his right eye and was required to endure major facial reconstructive surgery. Deputy Wenger continued to serve the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with distinction, and recently retired as a Lieutenant.
Recently, Wenger contacted the parole board and made the following statement regarding Pettis’s release:
“This act was extremely vicious, sadistic, and cruel. And now that I am writing these words, I have to admit there is a concern if he is released. How can we know this evil will not again erupt following a sudden outburst of anger on his part? It happened once, and there is zero guarantee it won’t happen again. I realize what a difficult decision you have before you. Hope for success weighed against a terrible mistake if someone is hurt or killed in the future.”
Wenger also made a particularly poignant and important statement statement in that same letter regarding the “Youth Offender” laws which applies to Pettis’s case:
“In this particular case, I know “Youth Offender” comes into play. I do understand the concept that at a certain age you are less responsible for your actions. I remember when working patrol, we needed to administer a “Gladys R.” questionnaire to juveniles detained for a crime if they were under the age of 14. The purpose was to ensure that, at that age, they had a full understanding of right and wrong. Often, it was clear they did, but the questionnaire remained a requirement.
Fast forward to today where it is opined that human brains aren’t fully developed in youth, continuing to mature through adolescence and into the 20s. In 2014, as you are aware, the idea of “Youth Offender” was introduced for those committing crimes before the age of 18. In 2016, it was expanded to include those who committed crimes under the age of 23. Then again, in 2018, it went further, including those who committed crimes under the age of 26. This is difficult to understand, since one can join the military and fight and die for their country at 17, enter into a business contract at 18, vote at 21, drink alcohol at 21, and yes, be a police officer at 21. So, in utilizing the “Youth Offender” hearing, I believe it is imperative to be careful how it is applied, especially with regard to a 24-year-old street gang member.”
Because of District Attorney George Gascon’s pro-criminal policies, the Deputy DA and the Homicide Bureau was could not be present during parole hearings. The victims’ families were not notified of the hearing and given a chance to oppose Pettis’s his release.
Retired LASD Chief Pat Jordan gave this exclusive quote to The Current Report regarding Pettis’s release:
“The murder of Chaplin Bryan and attempted murder had a devastating impact on the men and women who served with them at the Carson Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Derek Pettis stood over and executed Chaplin Bryan. He should never be release from custody. Ret. Chief Patrick Jordan. (I was an on scene supervisor dealing with the aftermath of Derek Pettis’ mayhem).”
Letter’s opposing Pettis’s release should be addressed to Governor Newsom and include Derek Pettis, CDC #K06969.
Submit your letter online here.
Mail to: Governor Gavin Newsom
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841