OCEANSIDE — The plan was simple — drive to the Coronado Bridge and swan dive off. Fortunately for Corey Nathaniel Byron, fate intervened in the form of Oceanside police dog Stryker.
At Byron’s sentencing Feb. 18, the 28-year-old man told the court minutes before taking police on a 45-minute pursuit, which ended with him jumping off the Coronado Bridge with Stryker attached to him, he contemplated suicide after a day of heavy drinking, but instead chose to head to his home in Fallbrook to sleep it off. However, when a police officer signaled him to pull over, he took it as a sign from “God” to end his life.
During the New Year’s Eve 2007 pursuit, Byron said he cautiously went through red lights by flashing his lights and honking his horn; however, he did hit a vehicle and kept going. As his adrenaline started to pump, he said he left his sister a message on her voicemail and continued toward Coronado. Once he exited his car on the bridge, it was only a matter of seconds until he and Stryker were freefalling more than 200 feet to the cold bay below.
With nearly a dozen family members and friends in the courtroom, Byron acknowledged his deep remorse for the death of Stryker, who he hadn’t realized was attached to him when he leapt from the bridge. He also thanked Stryker and his handler, Officer Kendrick Sadler, for ultimately saving his life.
Plagued by depression and substance abuse, Byron told the judge he used his time in jail to rehabilitate himself. “I’ve seen what happened and I know how not to let it happen again,” he said.
Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman agreed with prosecutor Paul Myers who was adamant that Byron should be sentenced to prison and not receive probation. Pressman sentenced him to three years and eight months in prison. “Your recklessness and endangerment earned you a stay at state prison,” Pressman said.
Byron’s actual prison time will be significantly less because of the 624 days credit he accumulated in jail. He pleaded guilty in September to a single count each of evading a police with reckless driving and driving under the influence with a prior a DUI conviction, both felonies, as well as one misdemeanor count of harm to a police animal causing death.
Following the hearing, Jennifer Byron, the defendant’s sister, expressed her and her family’s sorrow for Stryker and Sadler. Despite being “shocked” and unhappy about the prison time, she said she just wants to focus on the future so her brother can get the help he needs to get his life back.
Letters written to the judge from friends and family describe a caring, well-rounded individual vested in his young son and carpentry career. There is also mention of the Bronze Medal of Valor Byron received after he saved a young girl from getting hit by a plane at a 1996 air show at March Air Force Base at which time he was enlisted in the Civil Air Patrol.
Michael Young, whose daughter is friends with Byron, wrote his initial impression of Byron was that he was “polite” and “somewhat shy.” Young said Byron turned to his family during his two “manic episodes,” in 2004 and 2005, at which time the defendant was taken to Tri-City Medical Center where he was diagnosed as being bipolar.
A couple of weeks prior to the sentencing, Byron was interviewed by Dr. Gregg A. Michel, a forensic and clinical psychologist. Michel wrote the “bipolar” diagnosis was wrong and that Byron actually “exhibits borderline personality characteristics involving reactivity of mood and impulse control difficulties greatly exacerbated by his main difficulties, which consist of severe alcohol and drug dependence.”
During the interview, Byron admitted to using methamphetamines daily for a three-month period in 2004, which led to “sleep deprivation” and “paranoid ideation.” Michel concluded this was mostly likely the reason for misdiagnosing bipolar disorder, which can occur when there are issues of relative to substance abuse or dependence.
“Essentially, he is seeking internal reason for his difficulties and medication seeking,” Michel wrote in the report.