Off-duty El Cajon cop kills beer thief in Santee

Sometimes, mercy is better than justice

The crime scene
  • The crime scene

The bloodstains have long since faded, courtesy of Scram, sun, and time. More than a decade ago, in the parking lot of a Vons in Santee, Christopher St. Louis, 18, lost his life in the pursuit of free beer, shot by off-duty El Cajon police officer Tenaya Webb.

The healing has been slow

The healing has been slow

Image courtesy of the San Diego Sheriff's Department

On February 16, 2003, a Sunday evening, St. Louis and three buddies were out on a “beer run” when they ran into Webb. According to homicide investigator Lt. Terry Wisniewski, Webb had been shopping when she saw the teens loading cases of beer from a shopping cart into a car. Notwithstanding her off-duty status, and apparently surmising that St. Louis and the others were stealing the beer (misdemeanor shoplifting), Webb ordered the youths to “put the beer back,” after which they’d ostensibly be free to go.

What happened next will sound familiar to anyone scanning the news these days: shots fired, a young man dead, and a police officer placed on paid administrative leave. But the story line deviated at this juncture, because there was no race angle, no “Black Lives Matter,” no riots, not even a mild-mannered protest in front of police headquarters. It was just another case of the death penalty for disobeying a cop, a white-on-white shooting recounted in a news story in the local paper, garnering little attention elsewhere and no hubbub of which to speak. Crystal Stansfield had lost a son; perhaps not an angelic, perfect son, certainly no Son of God, but a son nonetheless.

Some time after the shooting, after the funeral and the fundraiser at Iguana’s on Mission Gorge Road, where she worked as a bartender, Stansfield contacted attorney Stephen G. Cline. “He told me, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before; but I have two sons — come in and talk to me.’”

On April 2, 2004, Cline, who was later joined by the firm of White and Bright, filed a wrongful death suit in federal court against the El Cajon Police Department, the City of El Cajon, and Tenaya Webb. The complaint, on behalf of Stansfield and the estate of St. Louis, alleged that Webb, by dint of negligence, had violated St. Louis’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Stansfield, who works as a pet groomer at a Petco in Santee, is eager to lend her perspective. “There are a lot of things that people don’t know.”

Tenaya Webb

Tenaya Webb

Some, but not all of Stansfield’s allegations, are documented in the deposition testimony of Tenaya Webb and her erstwhile girlfriend, Jennifer Joy, with whom Webb had a stormy, on-again, off-again relationship from February 2000 through April 2001. In an effort to discover whether Webb was imbued with any tendencies toward violence, Stansfield’s attorneys questioned Webb and Joy about their love affair and other topics.

Joy was candid, testifying that she and Webb had engaged in “sadomasochistic practices” and had a “rough” sex life. Stating that Webb was obsessed with her gun as well as with Joy’s two young sons, she stated that she was fearful for her safety and that of her boys’. She spoke of an incident on Mast Boulevard in Santee, saying that Webb, while off duty and out-of-uniform (while driving with Joy and one of Joy’s sons), whipped around in a u-turn and crossed a double yellow line in order to confront two teenagers who were arguing in front of a condominium complex. Webb got out of the car and “commanded” them to stop arguing with one another. Joy says that Webb was carrying her gun at the time.

Joy stated under oath that Webb had confided to her that, during a police convention attended by Webb in Los Angeles, Webb was drunk, depressed, possibly suicidal — and that during dinner in the presence of other officers, she disassembled her gun and put it together again. According to Joy, Webb had told her that the officers were concerned about Webb’s safety and may have attempted to take the gun away from Webb so she couldn’t take it up to her hotel room later that evening. When deposed, Webb confessed to being at the convention but denied allegations regarding the gun.

Joy said that Webb had told her of two wrist-slashing suicide attempts that took place when Webb was 12 and 16; Webb refused to answer when asked if she’d ever attempted to kill herself.

The deposition testimony contains extensive discussion regarding Webb’s participation in counseling sessions sponsored by and apparently mandated by the El Cajon Police Department, about which Webb was reluctant to divulge details.

Healing has been slow for Stansfield. “I still talk about my son like he’s here, and when people find out he’s not, it kind of shocks them. I think about him every single day, and I still break down. I try to tell my story. There is nothing I wouldn’t have done for my kid; he was my best friend. When I had nobody else, he was there. He was my baby, and to me he was a good boy. Maybe not to the rest of the world, but…he’d never hurt anybody; he was funny and was always being silly.”

I asked Stansfield about Chris’s pals. “His friends loved him to death. In fact, I’m still in touch with Sean Nolan; he’s getting better, but he’s still emotionally scarred. That poor kid spent six or eight hours covered with my son’s blood while they interrogated him.”

St. Louis and friends on a beer run at Vons

St. Louis and friends on a beer run at Vons

In Stansfield’s view, “beer runs” are a ubiquitous, if edgy, custom. “My son was shot for something that many people call a ‘teenage rite.’ Teenagers are always going to do something stupid; that’s just what they do, especially when you get a bunch of teenage boys together and they’ve been drinkin.’ There’s not a teenager out there — not you, not me —that hasn’t stolen something at some point. I’d never done a beer run, but I think almost every boy has; I know my four brothers did. How it all started with Chris? It was a stupid thing to do — they were just helping a friend move and went to his house and started drinking to celebrate the move. My son drank a lot; I’m not going to say he didn’t.

Enough stolen booze to be "just over" the point of not being a misdemeanor

Enough stolen booze to be "just over" the point of not being a misdemeanor

“All told, how much was the booze worth? Stansfield recalls, “Chris had five or six bottles of Jack [Daniel’s] in a carrying case, while Kevin Carter maybe had a few hundred dollars’ worth of beer stacked up in a the cart.” Chuckling, she adds, “The other side said it was ‘just over’ the point of not being a misdemeanor.”

Stansfield is critical of, and puzzled by, the trial judge’s decision to exclude certain, pivotal evidence.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene diagram

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene diagram

“Someone had called 911 and there was a recording of Webb shooting my son; it proved that there were four shots, ‘bang, bang, bang, bang’ — not one initial shot and then three others as Webb claimed. There was no stopping the shots. But the tape [most of it, except the last 30 seconds] was thrown out by the judge. They wouldn’t let it come in as evidence; I don’t know why. Before it happened, Cline told me that they were gonna do that to me, and that if the defense could show that Webb was in fear for her life, they could turn this thing around. I thought, What? My son was the victim, not Webb! She shot and killed Chris, and she wasn’t even in uniform. I was so pissed and confused. I said, ‘What kind of justice system is this where your son can be murdered by a police officer for no good reason?’ The defense claimed that he was trying to go after her gun, but there’s no way he could’ve even touched it. And he had no clue she was a cop; not one of the witnesses ever said that she identified herself.”

Sean Nolan

Sean Nolan

In most civil lawsuits for damages, depositions are among the most important components used by attorneys in their attempt to prove, or counter, allegations of liability. As such, the “depo” (as it’s colloquially known among litigators) can be both exhaustive and exhausting, taking up hours, if not days in testimony, as set forth in transcripts often stretching to several hundred pages. After the complaint was filed and answered by the defendants, it fell to Heather Kelleher (née Flynn), an associate at White and Bright, to take nearly all the depositions in the action. Among the dozen or so depos conducted in 2005 were accounts from St. Louis’s best friend, 18-year-old Max Collins, as well as testimony by buddy Sean Nolan, 17, and Kevin Carter, also 17, a kid St. Louis had met the day of the shooting. What Kelleher uncovered was a story that is both technical in detail and emotional in tone, the story of a routine day at the supermarket turned last rites for a teenager.

Max Collins

Max Collins

When I spoke with Kelleher, who has since relocated to Washington DC, I was struck by the clarity of her recollection, given the decade’s hiatus since the shooting. I asked if the jurors, whom Kelleher remembers as primarily white women in their 40s and 50s, were unsympathetic. “They didn’t like our client; she was kind of a rough woman, but I really liked her, and she really loved her son.

“It wasn’t the picture-perfect family, but it also wasn’t an abusive home or anything like that. It was a working-class area, and these folks were rough around the edges. Still, I don’t think the deposition testimony of Christopher’s’ friends hurt the case; they were very honest. I liked them. They weren’t your straight-A students, involved in school clubs and stuff like that, but they were nice, good kids. They may have gotten into trouble and could be characterized by some as ‘white trash,’ but quite frankly, I’d like to have their loyalty, the way they’d lay down their life for you.”

But, concedes Kelleher, “A lot of people would definitely see them as ‘bad.’ Two of the friends were incarcerated, at the time they were deposed, for minor things; I certainly don’t remember them being violent crimes. They were guys without direction, on the fringes, just teenagers getting into trouble. They had each other.”

Would the outcome have been the same had Chris’s friends not been incarcerated or viewed as petty hoodlums? Kelleher opines, “I think things would have been different. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the jurors thought he ‘deserved it,’ but they probably thought, They were doing something wrong, stealing beer. The jurors weren’t concerned with the fact that an off-duty, out-of-uniform cop — who didn’t identify herself — chased after the boys with a gun. It’s almost like the jurors didn’t look at that part of the equation.”

Concerning Webb’s failure to identify herself, Kelleher said of jurors, “They probably didn’t care.”

About three weeks into the trial, which had commenced on May 22, 2006, Stansfield began to have trepidations and mulled dismissing the case. According to Kelleher, there were a number of reasons for Stansfield’s decision to throw in the towel.

“First,” recalls the attorney, “it was very difficult emotionally, and second, it wasn’t going our way. It was pretty clear that the jurors were not on our side, and actually, after the dismissal (I was there), we were able to talk to the jury and confirm that.”

Was there a turning point in the truncated trial?

“These cases are hard,” opines Kelleher. “San Diego juries are very conservative, giving law enforcement the benefit of a doubt. And when the judge kept out some things like the 911 tape and some other evidence, it was clear that we were going to lose.”

Kelleher notes that Webb’s attorneys attempted to paint a less-than-savory picture of St. Louis. “The other side brought up the ‘iron cross’ tattoo that Chris had, but according to everyone we talked to, he was not a white supremacist.”

Crystal Stansfield adds, “They were going to make it look like my son was a thug, a skinhead — and he was none of those things. Next, they were gonna start dragging my whole family through the mud, and I wasn’t having any of that, either. I was done exposing him; he didn’t deserve that. Also, I didn’t want to see the autopsy photos. I couldn’t handle seeing my son like that.”

Bryan Burnett’s image of Christopher St. Louis is one borne of autopsy photos, blood-spatter patterns and exit wounds. And as a counterpoint to Heather Kelleher’s simpatico, almost wistful reminiscence of St. Louis’s buddies, Burnett, tapped as an expert witness for the plaintiff, expresses his analysis of the shooting in a detached fashion.

I met with Burnett at his Meixa Tech lab, tucked away in a small building behind his house in Cardiff. If one were to construct a man-fort with a scanning electron microscope instead of a wet bar, forensic reports instead of skin mags, this could be the template.

Bryan Burnett's image of Christopher St. Louis is one borne of autopsy photos, blood-spatter patterns, and exit wounds

Bryan Burnett's image of Christopher St. Louis is one borne of autopsy photos, blood-spatter patterns, and exit wounds

Burnett continues to find the case not only fascinating, but a source of professional pride.

“It’s the circumstances,” he says. “St. Louis approached the shooter and got shot four times, which is incredible. He received a fatal torso shot and started bleeding within seconds; he was bleeding out very, very quickly. Although that’s gross from a public standpoint, it’s an important observation for other homicides, which is why my paper got published.”

Burnett adds that while rapid blood loss from a gunshot wound is not uncommon, it “hasn’t been clearly documented in the literature.”

Burnett evinces a strong preference for delineating the perimeters of his analytical realm.

“What a lot of my associates don’t seem to be careful about is, ‘just where does my expertise end?’ In my case, it ends when there’s a medical opinion, that’s for certain. But for other experts, especially MDs — they go all over the place. That’s why, when someone calls me up for an initial inquiry, I want to make sure what they expect me to do. If they expect me to look at a firearm and comment on the functuality, ‘Oh, no,’ that’s a firearms expert. My areas include gunshot residue, blood-spatter analysis, and scene reconstruction. More often than not, the client is looking for analysis of gunshot residue, but I also do crime-scene reconstruction. Here, we did the reconstruction at a gym, Cardiffit. That was fun.”

Burnett explains his methodology.

“A reconstructionist tries to work with everything that’s available to form a hypothesis — a temporary conclusion that stands unless new evidence is uncovered. All the evidence that I examined in this case indicates that my original hypothesis of when St. Louis was initially shot remains valid. This includes taking into account the trajectory of the bullets and paths through St. Louis. He wasn’t fully facing Webb when he received the fatal chest bullet; he was facing the tobacco store, crouched forward at a 20-degree angle. He had to have been just starting his run toward Webb when he received that first bullet....

“The issue was, ‘When did she start shooting?’ And looking at the parameters of that, i.e., when St. Louis started his run towards her from the side of the car to stopping — which was right beside the shooter, Webb — St. Louis had a certain amount of momentum. Webb and the other witnesses commented on that rate of motion towards the shooter, and that’s when it really required a re-enactment. The distance covered was about 30 feet and it required St. Louis to foot-slap to slow down and come to a complete stop without overrunning the position of Ms. Webb. She claimed that the final shot was quite close to St. Louis.”

Burnett’s findings contradict Webb’s assertion.

“Under those circumstances,” he explains, “one of the things that happens with the discharge of a firearm is that not all of the gunpowder is burned; within a certain range, there will be an amount of gunpowder deposited in the target. The question is, ‘Does the powder itself have enough momentum to penetrate the skin of the recipient of the bullet?’ That’s where the issue of tattooing, or stippling, comes in. When the powder enters the skin, it causes a little bit of bruising, black-and-blue marks that look like tattoos. I found neither gunshot residue nor stippling on St. Louis. My conclusion was that Webb’s first shot was from about 30 feet away, the last from about 15 feet.”

Did Tenaya Webb use excessive force? Burnett, whose assiduous protocol is to steer well clear of legal conclusions, replies, “That’s for a jury to decide; all I do is the reconstruction. I don’t comment on behavioral issues like that; it’s not my area, and I don’t purport it to be. I don’t inject my viewpoint into the analysis. As a scientist, I put together the whole situation, interpreting witnesses’ statements in the context of the reconstruction. Since I wasn’t there, I do the best I can to say, in that short five seconds or so, ‘What the hell happened?’”

I asked Burnett about the autopsy photos, those nightmare images, the ones that Crystal Stansfield was ultimately spared. As inured as he might be to the clinical gore of post-mortem candids, he says, “I understand.” But whatever role Stansfield’s imminent viewing of her son’s gunshot-riddled corpse might have played in the decision to bail out, Burnett never had the opportunity to testify.

Stansfield harbors no illusions about her only child.

“My son wasn’t perfect; he could be quite the little shit when he wanted to be. I never denied any of it. But he wasn’t a bad kid. Chris had never been to jail; he was just doin’ stupid teenage shit. He drank a lot and hung out with a lot of kids who also weren’t perfect. He smoked pot, but he’d quit at that point. He failed high school miserably but wanted to get his GED; he was actually trying to get a job. The day after he died, Target phoned me because they were calling him back for a second interview. When I told the guy that Chris had passed away, he said, ‘Oh, God, I’m so sorry,’ and basically just hung up. What else can you say after that?”

Stansfield is candid about her son’s upbringing. “I wasn’t the perfect mom; I did my best, like most moms do. There was no help from his father, who’s a piece of crap. We didn’t talk. I had to call him while he was in prison to tell him that his kid was dead. He hadn’t seen my son since he was 12 years old, anyway.”

In light of recent events, I posited a “race” angle hypothetical to Stansfield: “Would the media have treated the story differently had you and your son been black?”

“I hate to say it, but absolutely. They would’ve gone crazy over it, and it sucks, because it’s not fair. I was interviewed once, and we had a news crew at my house for an hour or two, but that was it.”

When I asked the same question of Kelleher, she replied, “I don’t know if that would be different these days, now that police brutality and officer-involved shootings where someone is unarmed have received a lot of publicity nationwide.”

“Is there a double standard?” I wondered. “Is it easier to get away with shooting a white person?”

“I don’t know,” said Kelleher. “I think a lot of people would say that it’s the opposite. Police shootings happen in all kinds of circumstances. Unarmed white people are shot by officers, unarmed Hispanic people are shot by officers, black people, homeless people — all segments of the population. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that cops protect their own; however, we’ve seen instances recently where there have been shootings and the police department fires an officer right away.”

Kelleher described Webb’s demeanor as a witness.

“She was a little hostile about the fact that she was being sued. It was a difficult situation for her; it’s not fun to be a defendant. I don’t think she’s mean or malicious, but she didn’t express regret; that’s difficult for a defendant who’s a representative of the police department to do, because it might equal liability.”

Some time after Stansfield — faced with imminent defeat because of the judge’s evidentiary ruling — had decided to throw in the towel, she met with Webb. “I didn’t understand how they were able to close the case like that, but I was tired of it and just wanted it to be over. The one thing I requested was, if I’m going to sign an affidavit that I’ll never sue you guys again for this, I want to talk to her. Because I need to understand why she shot my kid, and I need to understand who she is. I can’t walk away from this whole thing, because this woman is a complete monster and a crazy person.”

Stansfield recounted the meeting with Webb, the aftermath of which reveals a complex and contradictory amalgam of emotions. “It was quite enlightening. She didn’t come across as crazy to me; she sounded like a normal person. She sobbed the entire time we talked, a good hour, and said that she didn’t sleep at night. She also said that she had no intentions of killing my son, which has lifted the hugest burden in the world off of me. I forgave her for it because it was never going to end if I didn’t. It would just continue to be something I’d hold in the back of my head forever, so talking to her was the only way to stop it for me.”

Kelleher comments, “Crystal got a lot of peace from meeting with Webb. Crystal wasn’t after the money; she just really needed someone to recognize that this didn’t happen because her son was ‘bad’ or because the officer was out to kill him. I don’t know what was actually said, but Crystal was able to move on — not from losing her child, but away from the anger. I think that sometimes, mercy is better than justice.”

Kelleher confirms what the layman suspects.

“Litigation is hard, and a lot of times, it’s not worth putting someone through it.” She laughs, “It’s not helpful to a lot of people.”

I asked Kelleher, “How much did White & Bright lose on the case?”

“I’m not comfortable discussing it, but it had to be at least a hundred grand.”

I asked Kelleher whether the in-trial dismissal was a problem for White & Bright.

“Well, it wasn’t for me, personally. Whatever would help Crystal get over the pain of losing her son. Of course, in litigation, there are a lot of expenses, and you’d like to see it through. On the other hand, if you think the trial isn’t going your way, why spend more money? My understanding is that it was Crystal’s idea to dismiss.... We were coming up to the part of the trial where there’d be a lot of photos of the body.”

Nonetheless, Stansfield praises her attorney’s tenacity.

“Mr. Cline was a bulldog. He said, ‘We can keep going until you’re done; I’ve got two kids and I know how it feels.’ But, the other side threatened to sue me for $50k if I continued and I lost, and that was another reason I decided to quit. We waited three years to start the damn case, then they dragged me through the mud for three weeks. When you’re trying to beat a police department, you feel like you’re fighting a bigger fish than you are.”

I asked Kelleher, “Do you think justice was served in this case?”

Map image provided by MyTopo

“In my opinion, no. Chris was unarmed. He was stealing beer and getting into the car, fleeing the scene. He and his friends were pursued by a woman whom they had no idea was a police officer rather than some ‘good Samaritan’ who was trying to stop them from taking the beer. I think police are encouraged not to get involved when they’re off-duty and out of uniform, and maybe there need to be some changes in policies and procedures within police departments about that. Certainly the policy of shooting to kill is not a good thing.”

Death penalty for a misdemeanor?

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, Shot 1 and 2

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, Shot 1 and 2

“In my opinion, yes,” states Kelleher. “But I don’t think she intended to shoot Chris to get the beer back. Why she brought a gun into the picture at all is beyond me. What Webb did wrong was to escalate the crime. The policy of stores is that you don’t pursue someone who’s stealing because you’ll make a situation worse. I mean, you take out a gun when you haven’t seen any sign that these kids are armed?” Kelleher laughs, “Chasing them with a gun was probably not the wisest decision....

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, Shots 3 and 4

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, Shots 3 and 4

“When Webb got close to the vehicle, it was dark, and witnesses testified that Chris tried to scare her off with a fake motion toward her as if to say, ‘Go away.’ Webb claimed that she thought it was a potential threat on her life. In all fairness, there was not a lot of time to make a decision. If you listen to the 911 tape, you’ll hear that from the time a witness makes a call on his cell phone, ‘There’s a lady with a gun,’ it’s a matter of seconds until you hear the shots fired. Not a lot of time passed from when Webb left the store to when Chris was killed.”

Can the St. Louis shooting be differentiated from, for example, the widely publicized Michael Brown shooting in terms of “excessive force”? Was it reasonable for Webb to have believed that her life was in danger or that grievous bodily harm was imminent?

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, post shots

San Diego County Sheriff's Department crime-scene reenactment, post shots

“She had sort of backed herself into a corner at that point,” says Kelleher. “She didn’t know if these kids had weapons on them, and one of them, Chris, moved towards her to scare her off, not knowing she was a cop.... Maybe she believed he had something in his hands, or… Whatever happened, she apparently got scared. In hindsight, some officers, having made the quick decision, the judgment call to shoot someone — and then finding out that the individual was unarmed — wish they hadn’t. I don’t know if that’s true for Webb — if she’s sorry it happened. You’d have to ask her.”

I queried Kelleher, “Are you troubled by the fact that Webb has been able to continue her career while St. Louis is six feet under?”

“It’s very sad that Chris was killed and that his life ended at a young age. It was up to the police department to determine whether Webb was suitable to continue working. It doesn’t bother me, per se, but I’d have concerns: Is this going to happen again? Is someone else going to get hurt because of a bad decision by this officer? I would imagine she would have been disciplined at some point.”

Crystal Stansfield and Christopher St. Louis

Crystal Stansfield and Christopher St. Louis

Crystal Stansfield doesn’t restrict blame for her son’s death to Webb, however.

“Kevin Carter, that rotten little bastard, if I catch him, I’d like to give him a piece of my mind. I feel like he’s the reason my son’s dead, because he wouldn’t stop putting the damn beer in the car. Chris and the others kept telling him, ‘Leave it alone, leave it alone.’ They were trying to leave, but he refused to quit, and that’s how Webb caught up with them. Then, Carter ran and got away with that for a full year.”

In the aftermath, Kelleher retains a sense of affection for Stansfield.

“I’d like to know how she’s doing; she’s a nice woman.” However Stansfield’s faring, she’s no better off financially. The complaint, eventually dismissed on July 3, 2006, had alleged damages of $3,000,000-plus. The plaintiff’s’ trial brief stated, “The loss of her son’s life is immeasurable.” But Stansfield maintains, “It wasn’t about money; it was about determining that Webb was crazy and shouldn’t be a cop.”

By all accounts, Tenaya Webb is doing well. According to “Transparent California,” a website that endeavors to list the position and compensation for every public employee in the state, Webb is still with the El Cajon Police Department, working at a desk job. Her compensation in 2012, the latest year for which information is available on the site, was $113,666.93.

In an attempt to contact her, I spoke with Lt. Rob Ransweiler of the El Cajon Police Department. Ransweiler told me that Webb, now a sergeant, might be willing to comment on the fatal shooting — but only if Crystal Stansfield agreed to speak with me in detail. (At the time of this story’s completion, Webb had neither contacted me nor issued a statement via Ransweiler.)

The El Cajon Police Department has circled the wagons.

“Speaking for the Department,” offers Ransweiler, “there’s not a whole lot we can say, because we didn’t do the investigation.”

As for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, spokesperson Jan Caldwell replied, “I’ve consulted our homicide captain and due to the age of this case, and that the involved individuals are no longer with this department, we do not have any statement or comment to make.”

Webb was not prosecuted for the shooting of St. Louis. On September 5, 2003, around seven months before the civil suit was filed, San Diego County district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, in a report issued to San Diego County sheriff Bill Kolender, concluded: “Officer Webb was confronted by a physically imposing — the autopsy report states, ‘St. Louis was 5 feet 11 1/2 inches and 161 pounds’ — highly intoxicated individual, who after committing a commercial burglary with his companions, essentially turned the incident into a robbery by charging at her. Christopher St. Louis charged at Officer Webb in such an intimidating, threatening manner that she reasonably feared for her personal safety. Clearly, she waited until he was virtually on her before she chose to defend herself. Her use of deadly force in this case was justified and she bears no criminal liability for her actions.”

As it happens, on May 21 of this year, Webb spoke at a conference of the San Diego chapter of Romance Writers of America held at the Best Western Seven Seas in Mission Valley. Her billing? “How Police Solve Murders with Sergeant Tenaya Webb.”

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First, I want to express my condolences to St. Louis' mother, Ms. Standsfield on the loss of her son, especially under these circumstances. That being said, the article clearly documents the facts as follows: St. Louis, an 18-year-old adult, was drunk, aggressive and in the process of committing a felony commercial burglary when he ran full-tilt at then-Officer (now-Sergeant) Webb who, fearing for her life and safety, shot him. He died as a result of his wounds. I know Tenaya and can only imagine how understandably frightened she must have been, as she was outnumbered and being charged by one of the group, St. Louis, a young man whose own mother described him as a drunk, miserable high school failure and (at least recently) a narcotics abuser. She cited his accomplishments as planning to get his GED and working on getting a job. His own attorney describes the entire group as what most people might describe as "White Trash", that two were deposed while incarcerated for other crimes (which she couldn't specifically recall but didn't "remember" as being violent, allowing herself some plausible deniability) but, said they were the kind of good people who would have your back. I really doubt she routinely interacts socially with these kinds of "good people who would have your back". As for any comments by Jennifer Joy about Tenaya, remember the words of Abraham Lincoln. "Just because you call a lamb's tail a leg doesn't mean the lamb has five legs." When we boil it down to the basics, we have a cop trying to do the right thing by stopping a felony theft. It sounds like she was just telling them to put the beer back and leave and, in so doing, handle things informally. She was prevented from doing that when attacked by an aggressive, drunk, drug abuser who, along with three other "what most people might describe as 'White Trash'", were in the process of stealing liquor and beer from a store - in epic amounts by the way - and, because of St. Louis' actions and those of his friends was forced to defend herself with deadly force. There was no "murder" as Ms. Standsfield charges. There was a lady in a dark parking lot trying to defend herself against an attack by an adult man and his three cronies and that is when he became the suspect and, she, the victim. As for the comment by St. Louis' mother that "beer runs" are a teenage tradition and that there is no teenager that has never done it, I disagree. The PX where I was stationed in the Marine Corps when I was his age frowned on things like that.

Very well said! Most people have no idea what is like to be a cop and enforce laws or take risks. Our morals have been distorted when news media (like the author of this hit piece on Officer Webb, attempt to make bad as good, and good as bad.

Youre an idiot that can't read. Shoplifting $100 in booze is a misdemeanor. Its not burglary or robbery. Guy was unarmed and was not a threat to her life. She did not ID herself as a cop. She could have got license plate and waited in her car after calling 911. Deadly force is never allowed to defend stolen property, at least here in California. A non cop who shot him would have got 20 years in prison. She got off because she was a cop. She should never had been promoted to supervisor sergeant.

If that's a $100 worth of booze, I could afford to drink a lot more. It IS a burglary. Read the penal code, and learn the terms and definitions. And read my full post you illiterate moron. If you need help with the big words, just sound them out.

First of all she should have called the substation that was right across the street! she was not even in her jurisdiction at the time and had NO business chasing anyone! Cop or not, and as Chris' mother my son may have had issues yes, but he was not a "miserable failure", and I don't care what you think "your friend" the officer should have just let it be! because this white trash mom would have made sure he paid the price for making that decision! Ms. Webb was simply trying to be a damned "hero" and you know as well as anyone else. In talking to her, I did not see her as crazy, but she definitely had some mental issues, I did see those reports, but I think everyone has there own demons to deal with daily. I try very hard to see both sides of the coin, and I have put myself in her position many times trying to justify her actions. I will admit that if I were in her shoes I might have shot him myself. I also thought the same thing everyone else did, why didn't she just call the Santee police dept and report a robbery? because she was as a police officer supposed to observe and report from what I was told, and there was another officer there at the time crouching behind the trash can in front of Petco while Ms. Webb opened fire at 7 pm while people where walking around that area, she is lucky he is the only one who died. I am so tired of people painting this "officer" like she should be wearing a damned halo, while my son is painted as a white trash supremacist piece of shit! He screwed up and yes he was drunk, but he was only 18 and didn't even get to live his life (to hear you tell it guess that was a good thing because he was only going to add to the prison population anyway right?) she killed all of my hopes and dreams for grandchildren, watching him get married, and or even getting the chance to try to become a contributing member to society! That should make it all ok that he died for stealing beer!!! STEALING BEER! when all he should have had to face was some jail time!!! thank you Moss for this article, but I am sure I will regret doing it...and no, I am not taking the comments very well sorry, I am still a grieving mother, and that pain never stops.

I will be removing my post...I have been thru enough and so has Teneya...we did talk, I forgave, it's over...I am sorry I ever brought it back up. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just have to realize that it is what it is and it cannot be changed with ugly words or anymore hurt. thank you.

Please read my clarification/comment below as it appears some readers may have misinterpreted my statements.

Few understand those protecting and serving. Having said that, I am very sorry for the loss of your son. Very tragic circumstances for all involved.

Protecting beer while off duty? Serving death upon a shoplifter? Were you drunk when you posted that?

You're an ass hat. Look at the evidence, She was being charged by a drunk 18 year old adult in a dark parking lot when she defended herself by shooting him. Start at the beginning of the article and read through the comments. Take notes if you must. Do your best.

Ms Stanfield, my condolences on the loss of your son, I know your pain will never go away. I don't know what your motivation was in asking your friend to write this article, but the result is already painful for you, Sgt Webb, and friends and family of everyone involved. Chris died because he attacked a woman, a woman with a gun pointed at him. Not because he was stealing a shopping cart full of liquor. I hope you understand that. The situation escalated due to actions by many people, not just Sgt Webb or Chris. You met her. You cried with her. She is a good person who never wanted this to happen. Punishing her by publishing vindictive remarks and made-up scenarios won't bring Chris back. I hope you find peace.

To clarify, I have no connection with Ms. Stansfield and had never heard of her until researching the story. Thank you. --Moss Gropen, Esq.

you are very right...thank you. I think I was trying to make people see that my son was not a monster either...but I think I might have done quite the opposite. We are not white trash nor was my son a failure, but only I knew that. it's ok...it's over and soon this to shall pass.

How does someone get attacked 15 feet away? The victim was 15-30 feet from the shooter. Attack means physical contact. What does gender have to do with it? Does that mean a woman 15 feet from a man would not have been shot? If the shooter was a concealed carry non law enforcement person s/he would have got 20 years for manslaughter for attempted murder. Why do off duty law enforcement get a pass at non self defense shootings?

I will assume you have never been in a life or death confrontation with another human being. Ever been to war? Have any idea how close or far away someone has to/can be to kill you? I thought not.

As for Jay Holloway, you got a lot to learn. People, society and personal responsibility in America are broken. Being accountable for one's own actions? Broken. A clear idea of how law enforcement and courts work? Broken. But, you are right, our justice system is also broken but, only as a result of the rest. The DA counts on a good conviction rate for re-election and that is why so many good cases are dealt out for a change-of-plea (COP) and people aren't punished for their lawless actions that affect ALL of us. As a random example, do you think the prices in a store are affected positively or negatively by the crime (not tradition) of shoplifting? And then, who pays those higher prices? Should I pay more for a pair of Levis because they are stolen in bulk from stores who choose to take no action but, rather, stand by and raise prices? That is NOT my responsibility. Should police officers - on or off duty - take action in those cases ocurring right in front of them? Should civilians? Would it be a better country and a better world if we all held one another to common standards of law and ethics? I'm not positive but, I think so. I don't think a blanket decision could cover all of the possibilities but, it is a good thing to consider, certianly on a case-by-case basis. Clearly three things we are discouraged from doing in a free society are (1) getting drunk, (2) stealing and, (3) attacking innocent people, especially ladies, which Sgt. Webb certianly seems to have been when I have spoken with her. What would have happened if Tenaya Webb had NOT been a cop and NOT been armed, but just a passing citizen giving good advice to these young men to "put back the beer"? Would assault and battery, rape, or worse been the result? We will never know, because she stood the thin blue line that seperates right from wrong, good from evil and victims from perpetrators. I shudder to think what might have happened had she not defended herself. I might suggest that, love the cops or hate them, think they are part of - or victims of - the system, or, hopefully, have an open mind, you might go on a four hour ride with a patrol officer and get a feeling for what their job is about. Then, maybe, visit a courtroom for a day and see how that's going for the county/ state/country. Then the lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington (watchout for laws that are passed when there is a law that already covers it...but, those are probably good for a few votes)...and on and on. Now that you have figured out the difference between the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department, please continue with you self education. I think you will find it enjoyable and enlightening. Like · Reply · Just now

Ride alongs have nothing to do with killing unarmed people. sane cops will not gun down non life threatening people. You're one of the insane people that chant "shoot first ask questions later". You are advocating murdering everyone that shoplifts, jaywalks, gives you a mean look, is mean to you, does any infraction, anywhere, anytime. You're a borderline sociopath POS. No doubt you're also a mindless NRA brownnosing gun nut.

You are an ass hat. Reading in context, not out of context, is an excellent way to understand what someone is communicating. You assume a great deal, so I suspect you are young and, therefore, have an excuse for shooting off your mouth like a middle school boy. As for your on-line psych diagnosis, that makes you beyond an egotistical idiot.

I wish to clarify something in the article. I did not describe Ms. Standsfield, Christopher St. Louis, or his friends as "white trash." To the contrary, I said these were not upper- middle-class kids raised with all the same financial and social benefits of kids in La Jolla. They didn't all come from the best homes with a lot of direction in life. Like many/most teenage boys, they got into trouble, but they were good kids who had each other. Crystal Stansfield is a hard-working mom, good woman, loved her son and was doing her best to raise a good man. Quite frankly, they are the kind of friends I would like to have: they were/are loyal and would lay down their lives for their friends and family. These kids were not out to hurt anyone. When asked if they were people who some would describe as white trash, I responded yes. I don't believe that to be an accurate description and it is not a description/judgement I would make of anyone. The fact remains, this was the general picture the defense was trying to paint (without the label) and how people/jurors may have concluded. The point I was trying to make is that such a description/ perception is wrong.

What happened was an outrage and I wish the legal outcome had been very different. Had this been a situation where a private citizen took Officer Webb's actions (who by all accounts appeared to be a private citizen as she was without a uniform or identification and, according to witnesses, never identified herself as a cop during the incident), chased teenage boys stealing beer with a gun drawn and ultimately shot and killed one of the boys, different standards would likely have applied. In fact, had she actually been a private citizen pointing a gun at Christopher, who presented no physical or life-threat to anyone, he would have had every right to exercise sufficient force to protect his life. The same standard should have applied here.

My heart continues to break for Ms. Standsfield and her loss.

Sorry you have to deal with these raw emotions again Crystal. I will always remember Christopher as a very sweet boy who had a good appetite and was always polite and a great friend to my brother Kevin. He spent almost every day of the last 2 years at our home with my brother being a typical teenager. Kevin was standing behind Christopher when he was shot. He was 17 and they had all been drinking. The way he described the events of that evening to me was that Webb pulled a gun and told Chris to put his arms up. He was intoxicated and when he put his arms up he stumbled and she opened fire. They were all scared to death. Kevin pulled Christopher into the car and they took off. They were apprehended around the corner on Olive lane. Kevin was scared and he ran. He hid in the sewer until the following day. Eventually he turned himself in and faced charges of murder because a person was killed in the commission of a crime. He lost his best friend, spent a year in Juvenile hall and has never really been OK since. I am Kevin's older sister. I was his guardian at the time of the incident. He had run away from my home 2 days before this tragedy because I had punished him for not abiding by my rules. I wish there was a better ending to this story.

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