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Gang member guilty of killing officer

OCEANSIDE — “He’s just a kid!” a relative screamed outside the courtroom moments after 18-year-old Penifoti “P.J.” Taeotui was convicted Nov. 10 of the murder of Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant nearly two years ago.
Soon after, jurors quickly filed out of the courtroom, all denying requests to speak as they made their quick exit out of the courthouse. Seconds later, the bulk of the young defendant’s family and friends, who had packed the right side of the courtroom, came streaming out of the courtroom crying, speechless and devastated. A woman who only identified herself as Taeotui’s aunt said her family was sorry for the Bessant family’s loss, but that her nephew wasn’t at the scene when the murder occurred.
Finally, the Bessant family emerged from the courtroom, and after a few minutes spoke to the gathered press.
“I saw the same evidence (the jury) did and I’m in agreement with their findings,” Steve Bessant said. The slain officer’s father attended the entire five-week trial. “I really appreciate the work of this jury.”
“I have compassion for the Taeotui family, their losing a son also… but his family can visit him, I wish I could visit Danny,” Steve Bessant said.
Bessant, 25, was gunned down on the evening of Dec. 20, 2006, during a traffic stop at Arthur Avenue and Gold Drive in the “back gate” area of Oceanside. He was shot once in his left armpit just above his protective vest. In the months prior to his death, Bessant, a father and husband, had been working on a program with community activists to put an end to gang violence in the Mesa Margarita neighborhood, which the prosecution believes was the motive for the gangland slaying.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors maintained that Meki Gaono, 19, used a .22-caliber rifle with a scope to fatally shoot Bessant from more than 300 feet away, while Taeotui and another teen, Jose Compre, fired handguns — a .22-caliber revolver and a 9 mm semi-automatic, respectively — in the direction of the officers.
Taeotui’s DNA was found on beer cans at the scene, as well as the two .22-caliber firearms.
Prosecutor Tom Manning told jurors in his closing statement that the murder was part of the “warped subculture of gang mentality.”
“There isn’t a more violent, powerful action than shooting a police officer,” Manning said.
Taeotui was convicted of a single count of first-degree murder, as well as two counts of assault relating to another Oceanside police officer and a ridealong witness. In addition, jurors found true the gang and weapon enhancements attached to the charges. A sentencing date of Jan. 12 has been scheduled. Coincidentally, Gaono’s trial is set to begin that day; Gaono is charged with same counts as Taeotui.
Both teens face up to life in prison; however, because they were underage at the time of the shooting, the prosecution wasn’t able to seek the death penalty.
Compre, 17, had the murder and assault charges against him dropped in March after a judge found a lack of evidence to put the teen in front of his residence at 622 Arthur Avenue when the shooting occurred.
Defense attorney William Rumble weaved a different scenario that excluded his client from the shooting. Further, the lawyer questioned the integrity of a handful of the prosecution’s witnesses who are gang members or have some gang affiliation.
Rumble told the panel the teens, as well as a fourth heavier-set gang member, had been shooting out streetlights and drinking beer prior to the murder, but that his client had left approximately 10 to 20 minutes before the incident occurred. He cited neighborhood witnesses whose descriptions of the teens in front of Compre’s residence at the time of the shooting didn’t match Taeotui.
However, Taeotui’s peers testified the young man admitted that he and two other gang members, Gaono and Compre, fired at Bessant. Rumble cried foul saying the witnesses were coerced into telling police investigators what they wanted to hear to gain immunity from being an accessory after the fact, which can carry a sentence of life in prison.
“These people took an oath and they lied,” Rumble said.


Notasstupid August 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm

He did’nt think he was just a kid when he became man enough to use a gun and desided to be a gang banger. Hes a stupid wannabe somebody with a zero mentality. he can be as bad as he wants in prison where he belongs

TO MY RELETIVE P.J - January 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Wut up Uso…People on here write down stuff sayin that they happy you doin life geeh…Blood Cousin i know u didnt do them horrible thing mayun…wish i could visit you…but i cant…The Law Says I cant because im on probation…im sorry geeh…all i can do is pray n spill a 40oz fo you geeh saying free P.J Taeotui….SOO-WHOOP

John Lloyd Scharf November 29, 2008 at 10:56 am

What were the DNA tests that were run?

In the CODIS database of Maryland, of fewer than 30,000 profiles, 32 pairs matched at nine or more

loci. Three of those pairs were “perfect” matches, identical at 13 out of 13 loci. Experts say they most

likely are duplicates or belong to identical twins or brothers, but they did not establish that.

A study of the Arizona CODIS database carried out in 2005 showed that approximately 1 in every 228

profiles in the database matched another profile in the database at nine or more loci, that approximately

1 in every 1,489 profiles matched at 10 loci, 1 in 16,374 profiles matched at 11 loci, and 1 in 32,747

matched at 12 loci.

In a recent case against a Murillo-Sosa, a jury was told the match was 5 of 13. They had to say he was not

guilty. SO, what kind of match are they going to make?

How about doing it right the first time and take the time to get a FULL DNA testing of Y chromosome

DNA and mitochondrial DNA, as well as autosomal (CODIS) DNA?
How about doing it right the first time and take the time to get a FULL DNA testing of Y chromosome

DNA and mitochondrial DNA, as well as autosomal (CODIS) DNA?

Is it a mitochondrial DNA test which matches everyone who descended from the same maternal

ancestor in the last 20 generations as THE DEFENDENT(S)? Is it just a “high resolution test” which the

FBI performs or a real full genome sequencing of the mitochondrial DNA?

Is it a Y Chromosome test which matches everyone who has the same paternal lineage for the past 400

years? If so, is it 12 markers, which could be one to fifty percent of the population, or is it a 67 marker

test that can pin it down to a surname?

There may be a way to combine all of these that will resolve the identity to one person, but is what they

have beyond a reasonable doubt unless they do FULL testing?

DNA match claims are being used to extract confessions. I am sure these jailhouse informants felt no problem giving false testimony in these cases.

John Trainum, a 25 year detective, is now recommending that interrogations be videotaped because of how they are extracting confessions.

On 1/24/08, in the LA TIMES, he wrote, “I’ve been a police officer for 25 years, and I never understood why someone would admit to a crime he or she didn’t commit. Until I secured a false confession in a murder case.”

If it can extract a confession, why not abit of false testimony?

So, a if a confession in a case is NOT a sign that it is a done dea why would it be such from a jailhouse informant?

It goes back to the DNA testing. DNA testing is not magic, but it is being treated as such. The only power of DNA testing that is absolute is in EXCLUDING suspects

confused November 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

My Heart goes out To the Bessant Family. Why is it, That the 3rd person involve Compre is not being charge. He was there. He was firing a hand gun. It seems he was at the scene doing the same thing Taeotui was doing.There is more to this story. Hopefully it will all come out. My heart goes out to PJ Mom Dad Grandparents and family. You are all in my prayers God Bless

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