Jurors completed their first full day of deliberations Wednesday without reaching a verdict in the trial of an off-duty Riverside County sheriff's deputy accused of gunning down an unarmed patron at a Murrieta bar.
The ex-lawman, who maintains that he fired in self-defense, could face 50 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and sentence- enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations in the Dec. 21, 2011, death of 36-year-old Samuel Vanettes of Winchester.
According to the prosecution, at least 11 people witnessed the defendant shoot Vanettes at point-blank range inside Spelly's Bar & Grill at 40675 Murrieta Hot Springs Road. The victim had gone there with his sister and several friends.
A trial brief prepared by the prosecution states that Long had joined a retired colleague for drinks at the pub several hours before the attack. During the evening, Vanettes invited the defendant to take part in a game of team darts. The off-duty lawman parted company with his friend and joined the group, continuing to drink beer and hard liquor, according to prosecutors.
Shortly before 8 p.m., Long and Vanettes became embroiled in a seemingly insignificant argument about whether a certain street was located in Orange County. Vanettes's friend, Danny Burnside, told investigators that the defendant became belligerent and challenged Vanettes to "go outside" and fight.
Long allegedly stood up, removed a compact .45-caliber handgun from his waistband and leveled it at Vanettes and his friends, then sat back down.
The defendant denied pulling his gun until the actual shooting.
Another of Vanettes's friends stepped in front of the defendant and shouted an expletive, posturing aggressively, a bar patron told detectives.
All witnesses acknowledged that Long began backing away from the table where Vanettes and the group were seated and that Vanettes approached Long in an attempt to defuse the situation.
The bartender told investigators there was some shoving, and while several witnesses described Long as appearing "upset," most witnesses said he was acting "calm" as he backed toward the bar exit, court papers state.
The prosecution alleges that Long pulled his .45 a second time, leveling it at Vanettes from at least five feet away and firing six times. Long testified that Vanettes attempted to take his pistol from him.
Vanettes was hit by four bullets -- in the chest, shoulder, abdomen and cheek. He died at the scene.
After initially refusing, Long submitted to a blood test four hours after the shooting and was right at .08 percent blood-alcohol content, prosecutors said.
The 10-year law enforcement veteran last worked as a bailiff at one of the three downtown Riverside courthouses. The sheriff's department fired him in March 2012.
Long is in custody in lieu of $1 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.—City News Service