Fatal 2012 Shooting in Crestline

The fatal shooting of a Crestline man in November 2012 by three sheriff’s deputies was determined to be justified, according to a June 18 announcement from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s office completed its review of the case of the fatal shooting of David Andrew Gaston, 56, by Deputy Jacob Bailey, Deputy Lance Beyerle and Deputy Eric Dyberg of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Interviews were conducted with 12 witnesses as well as firefighters and deputies who saw and/or heard the series of events leading up to the shooting.

Prior to Gaston’s death during the Nov. 12, 2012, incident, Gaston was experiencing medical problems and did not have long to live. His son, David Gaston, Jr., said his father had been taking several different psychiatric medications, but he was cut off from the medications several months earlier due to excessive use, his son explained to investigators.

Gaston lived on Redwood Way in Crestline with his wife, his son and daughter-in-law. On November 12, 2012, Gaston was looking through a phone book and told his wife he was looking for a divorce attorney and that she should leave the house. As Gaston walked through the house, he kicked his wife in the stomach. Gaston told her he was going to light the house on fire. A short time after, Gaston’s wife saw flames.

Gaston had pulled out the home phones from the wall, so his wife called 911 on her cell phone. Fire fighters responded, and around 9:58 a.m. deputies from the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station also responded, due to a request from the fire department for assistance with a “5150” (mentally ill) subject at the residential structure fire.

The family advised deputies that Gaston was possibly retrieving firearms from inside the house and that he had threatened to shoot firefighters and deputies. They also told deputies Gaston might have locked himself inside a safe.

Deputies Jacob Bailey, Lance Beyerle and Eric Dyberg, all wearing San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department uniforms, responded to the call. Fire department personnel were waiting for the deputies to clear the house prior to entering to put out the fire.

Once the deputies entered the smoky residence, they went room by room, searching for any additional people. Off the kitchen, the deputies located a hole in the floor where a ladder led down to another room. The deputies searched the room and located a large, locked gun safe.

The deputies called for anyone inside the safe to come out, but received no response. After the search, no one was found.

Deputy Bailey and Deputy Beyerle went to the rear door of the residence to wait for fire department personnel. They were facing the house when Bailey heard a male voice behind them. When they turned around, they saw Gaston walking from the forest behind the house. Gaston was yelling at them and had his right hand inside his right-side jacket pocket.

The deputies pointed their duty weapons at Gaston and ordered him to take his hand out of his pocket. Witnesses said they heard the officers identify themselves as sheriff’s deputies, telling Gaston not to move, to get down on the ground and to stop, along with other instructions that Gaston ignored. Gaston continued to walk toward the deputies, who yelled for assistance from Deputy Dyberg and Sergeant Mark Pederson.

Dyberg came to the back of the house with a shotgun and ordered Gaston to take his hand out of his pocket. Gaston continued to yell several times at the deputies: “Do your job. Do your job.” Gaston did not comply with the deputies’ commands. Gaston kept his right hand in his pocket and continued to walk toward the deputies. He shouted repeatedly, “Shoot me. Kill me,” as he continued to move toward the deputies.

Believing that Gaston had a weapon in his front pocket, the deputies ordered Gaston to take his hand out of his pocket, to get on the ground and to stop. Gaston did not comply with the commands. When Gaston was within approximately fifteen feet of Deputy Dyberg, Gaston made an “exaggerated” movement with his right hand, upward, taking it from his jacket pocket in a rapid motion.

All three deputies believed they saw a gun and feared Gaston was going to shoot at them and their partners. Believing all their lives were in danger, the deputies fired their weapons. Gaston died at the scene.

In this case, the DA’s report noted, Deputy Bailey, Deputy Beyerle, and Deputy Dyberg each had an honest and objectively reasonable belief that Gaston posed a threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves and their partners. It was objectively reasonable for the deputies to believe Gaston intended to seriously injure or kill the deputies at the scene.

“An honest and objectively reasonable belief that lethal force is necessary to avoid what appears to be an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury will justify the use of deadly force. This is true even if the person acting in self-defense could have safely withdrawn or had available to him a less lethal means of defense.”

Based on the facts presented in the reports and the applicable law, the deputies’ decision to use deadly force was a proper exercise of their rights of self-defense and defense of others, and therefore their actions were legally justified, the DA’s office concluded.

The 33-page report of the written case evaluation is available at www.sbcountyda.org by selecting Press Releases under the Newsroom tab at the top of the home page.