OCEANSIDE — The trial for a young man charged with the killing of Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant began Sept. 29 at the Vista Superior Courthouse.
Penifoti “CJ” Taeotui, 18, is the first defendant in the case to be tried for the officer’s murder.
Bessant, 26, was fatally shot on the evening of Dec. 20, 2006, after he responded to a call to assist another officer on a traffic stop at Gold Drive and Arthur Avenue near the back gate area of Camp Pendleton.
Taeotui, a reputed gang member, is charged with the murder of Bessant, as well as two counts of assault relating to another Oceanside police officer and a ridealong witness who were also on the scene.
The prosecution alleges co-defendant Meki Gaono, 19, used a .22-caliber rifle with a scope to fatally shoot Bessant, while Taeotui fired a .22-caliber revolver in the direction of the officers.
If convicted, the prosecution won’t be able to seek the death penalty, since Gaono and Taeotui were both underage at the time of the killing.
The trial is expected to last nearly two months and could have more than 70 witnesses.
Gaono’s trial is scheduled for mid-December.