Man's charge reduced in 2010 Yuba City police shooting
A charge of assaulting a police officer with a firearm was reduced to a misdemeanor Thursday, but Lionel "Lonnie" Patterson was ordered to stand trial for a 2010 incident that ended when officers shot and killed Patterson's fiancée.
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Brian Aronson said there was not enough evidence to charge Patterson with a felony.
Patterson, now 53, and his fiancé, Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin, had a run-in with a census worker at his home May 20, 2010, in the 700 block of Mariner Loop in Yuba City.
Roger-Vasselin reportedly pointed a gun at census taker Jeanette Sager and Sager called police.
Yuba City police initially said Patterson had pointed a revolver at the worker, but that charge was dropped later after Sager told officials Roger-Vasselin was the one with the weapon.
Four police officers arrived at the home and Patterson opened the door with a gun in hand, pointed at Officer Catherine Alestra, according to Sgt. Stephen Thornton, who testified Thursday.
"It was pointed directly at her chest," Thornton said.
Patterson's attorney, Jesse Santana, argued it was too dark both inside and outside the house for Patterson to know the people at his door were police. The judge agreed and reduced the gun-pointing charge to a misdemeanor.
Officers testified the street was dark and there were no lights on the front porch.
Cameron King, a deputy district attorney for Sutter County, argued against reduced charges, but acknowledged a strong case for charging only a misdemeanor. "The Legislature has said pointing a gun at a regular person is a 'wobbler' charge and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances," King explained.
Aronson said Patterson's lack of criminal history was a factor in reducing the charge.
Roger-Vasselin also came to the door shortly after Patterson and was brandishing a shotgun, police said. Officers shot and killed her after she refused to put the weapon down.
The Sutter District Attorney's Office deemed the shooting justified, but Roger-Vasselin's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court that is still pending.
However, Roger-Vasselin's death was not discussed during Patterson's preliminary hearing because, prosecutors said, it was "not relevant" to the allegations against Patterson.
King said Thursday's proceedings were meant to focus on Patterson's role only, noting the shooting of Roger-Vasselin happened after Patterson had already set his gun down on the floor.
Prosecutors said a plea deal for Patterson could be in the works.
Patterson was ordered to appear again April 25 for a pretrial conference. He remains free on bail.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.