One Small Detail Not Mentioned:
Suspect Was on Probation and Shouldn’t Have Been Released From Jail
The crime stats for Eureka are indeed bad. Very bad.
The reasons are varied and many.
The Eureka Police Department has 100 sworn employees for less than a 15-mile square area. To note, the top 10 EPD officers make upwards of $90,000+ a year. The Chief of Police pulled in a total compensation of $156,000 in 2010. Eureka also has the agreed upon assistance of the HCSO, CHP, Humboldt Bay Fire, the Probation and Parole Departments, and the FBI within the city limits.
That apparently isn’t enough to take a bite out of crime in Eureka.
An overcrowded jail that releases offenders early doesn’t help matters of crime, either. But let’s take a closer look at one situation that happened recently.
After being brought to the jail on a new offense, Gary Lee Bullock, the alleged suspect in Rev. Freed’s slaying, was released on his OR (own recognizance) only a few hours before Freed’s murder. Unbelievably, EPD was called back and contacted him again a second time due to his erratic behavior. Bullock was merely referred to the Rescue Mission at that time.
One of the rarely mentioned points to consider is this: Mr. Bullock was placed on a three-year probation term
back in April for cocaine possession. Along with that grant
of probation came a set of terms which Bullock agreed to for
obeying all laws of the community– or he’d be back in jail.
When originally brought to the jail he should have been retained on a ‘Probation Hold’ until the Humboldt County Probation Department or District Attorney’s Office—who had the jurisdiction in the matter– properly assessed his situation. That didn’t occur.
That’s the whole idea behind the preventative ’community safety’ thing. There are pre- and post release procedures in place that should have been followed for individuals granted probation. Were they? A process exists providing for an appropriate level of scrutiny and investigation of probationers arrested for new offenses, duly superseding jail overcrowding and holding them before subsequent release into the community.
Once Bullock’s second law enforcement contact was made, he certainly should have been returned to the jail so his situation could be looked into further by his probation officer. He was clearly– twice– in violation of the terms of his probation in a relatively short period of time. And yet nothing happened.
Mr. Bullock, despite his felony probation status, surprisingly wasn’t held whatsoever for his case to be reviewed. More unbelievably, he was released out of the jail– kicked out the door and onto the street to himself without assessment or any supervision whatsoever– at 12:43 in the morning on January 1, hours before the Catholic priest’s slaying in the Eureka rectory merely a few blocks away from the jail, EPD headquarters, and directly across the street from the Probation Department’s Adult Services Division.
Bullock’s probation status and lack of supervision hasn’t been brought up nor
is it widely known to the public. It warrants investigation because other incidents, similar in nature, have been occurring routinely. In fact, it is quietly happening all too often following our review of several hundred crime reports over the past two years.
Think Jason Warren’s alleged brutal murder of Dorothy Ulrich and the subsequent hit and run of the Bayside joggers. In that instance, Warren, already sentenced to State Prison, never should have been released from the jail to freely engage in his murderous rampage upon others.
We wonder if things would have turned out differently if the ‘probation hold’ process that was in place and should have occurred actually happened, and to what degree it did in both cases. When the system fails, it fails for all of us.
Both situations should have turned out differently. But Probation Officers and District Attorneys don’t like to work after 5 pm, on the weekends, or on the holidays. And the jail and courts finds it far too easy to release those in custody early as long as nothing bad ever happens.
In these cases and others, however, something bad did happen. With deadly and dire consequences. Oops.
We hope the Grand Jury or Superior Court will look into whether the proper probation pre-and post release procedures were actually followed in both the Gary Lee Bullock and Jason Warren cases– and to the totality of circumstances as to why they happened in the first place.
Otherwise, these situations will happen again and again with random precision, a deadly and ongoing criminal problem falling through the cracks of a complacent bureaucracy– and swept under the rug as necessary.
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As the County pleads for more jail funding and the Eureka City Council and Police Department look to increase taxes by extending Measure O (which provided $8.7 million for public safety since it was enacted in 2010), citizens may want to ask the conductors of the ‘give-us-more-money’ gravy train if we’re actually getting the services we’re already paying for.
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