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Thursday, September 11, 2008

[CA] No justice for the stolen life of deputy's wife Kristin Maxwell-Bruce

...The Maxwell family never agreed to the plea bargain, [Kristen's mother] Kay Maxwell said....

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San Diego Union Tribune
By Ray Huard
September 11, 2008
[Excerpts] – A former sheriff's deputy who shot and killed his wife during a fight in their Alpine home with their 4-year-old son in the room was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday. Lowell Bruce was given the maximum sentence allowed by law after pleading guilty in August 2007 to voluntary manslaughter for the December 2006 death of Kristin Maxwell-Bruce, San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael D. Wellington said. It took more than a year and three judges to finally impose the sentence. Bruce, a deputy since 1998, initially was charged with murder. But in July 2007 prosecutors and defense lawyers proposed a deal under which he would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and get a 15-year prison sentence... Maxwell-Bruce's father, Jim Maxwell, said in court yesterday that the District Attorney's Office “took the easy way” by accepting a plea agreement from Bruce instead of prosecuting him for murder. “Because of Lowell Bruce's lack of forethought, lack of control and bad temper, our only child, our daughter, is dead,” Maxwell said. Maxwell-Bruce's mother, Kay Maxwell, told the judge the sentence was a miscarriage of justice and “a clear message to anyone who is abusing his wife that it isn't that serious”... Choking up, Bruce, 42, told the judge he never meant to harm his wife. “I love her very much. I miss her daily,” Bruce said. Speaking to his two sons, who were not in court, Bruce said, “I am sorry and hope you will forgive me”... Ray Huard: (619) 593-4953; [Full article here]

Video from last post:

September 10, 2008
[Excerpts] A deputy sheriff who shot his wife in the face during an argument in front of their 4-year-old son was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in state prison for the Christmastime killing.... The lengthy lag in sentencing occurred because the trial judge in El Cajon refused to accept the plea bargain. The jurist, who wanted to be able to sentence the defendant to up to 21 years behind bars, was eventually removed for showing apparent bias and the case was reassigned to San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington. The victim's father, Jim Maxwell, blamed the District Attorney's Office for letting Bruce plead guilty to manslaughter. "Meaning no disrespect to this court, this was an act of murder, pure and simple," Maxwell told Wellington. "It's a shame the people representing the victims didn't see it this way and took the easy way out"... The Maxwell family never agreed to the plea bargain, Kay Maxwell said... She said she and her husband have put off retirement plans so they can raise their daughter's two boys, now 6 and 9 years old... For his part, Bruce apologized to the victim's family and still loves his wife. "I wake up every morning looking for her," the tearful defendant said. "I love you boys and will never stop." Bruce also apologized to his in-laws for "this unexpected traumatic change in your life"... Bruce did not intentionally shoot his wife, but the gun discharged, hitting her in the mouth, [Defense attorney Henry] Coker said... [Full article here]

San Diego Union Tribune
By Ray Huard
September 10, 2008
[Excerpts] ...There was no evidence that Bruce intended to kill his 38-year-old wife when he shot her once in the jaw during an argument in their bedroom, Wellington said. “It's hard to see through tears,” the judge [San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael D. Wellington] told Maxwell-Bruce's parents, who were in court. “My obligation, the obligation of any court, is to step back from the emotion and look at the facts.” Choking up, Bruce, 42, told the judge he never meant to harm his wife. “I love her very much. I miss her daily,” Bruce said. Speaking to his two sons, who were not in court, Bruce said: “I am sorry and hope you will forgive me.” axwell-Bruce's father, Jim Maxwell, didn't think much of Bruce's apology. “I don't ever want to seem him again,” Maxwell said outside the courtroom. He said the 15-year sentence “stinks”... Ray Huard: (619) 593-4953; [Full article here]
[Police Officer Involved Domestic Violence Fatalities Fatality]


  1. News

    La Bella & McNamara file claim against County of San Diego for shooting death of Kristin Maxwell-Bruce by San Diego Sheriff's Department Deputy Lowell Bruce

    June 8, 2007

    On June 8, 2007, Jim and Kay Maxwell, parents of Kristin Maxwell-Bruce, filed an administrative claim with the County of San Diego, arising from the shooting death of their daughter by San Diego Sheriff's Department Deputy Lowell Bruce.

    On December 14, 2006, Deputy Bruce shot his wife, Kristin Maxwell-Bruce, with his service weapon. Their 4-year-old son was present and saw the shooting. Deputy Bruce has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial.

    The Maxwells' claim alleges that the San Diego Sheriff's Department and its officers wrongfully and negligently hired, trained and supervised Deputy Bruce. The Maxwells' claim also alleges that Sheriff's Department personnel who responded to the scene violated the Maxwells' civil rights and were grossly negligent in the treatment of their daughter.

    Among other things, the Maxwells claim that Sheriff's Department personnel wrongfully detained them at the scene, kept them separated until hours after their daughter's death, refused to allow them to see their daughter before she died, pepper sprayed a distraught Jim Maxwell and struck him with a baton when he tried to see his wife, and allowed news media at the scene to identify Jim Maxwell as a "suspect" in the crime. Sheriff's Department personnel also failed to notify the Maxwell family when their daughter died; at least one of the family member's first notification was from the news media.

    The Maxwells also claim that emergency medical responders provided grossly negligent care, delaying treatment and refusing to allow Kristin to be transported from the scene. Kristin died at the scene one hour after the Sheriff's Department and emergency medical personnel arrived.

    The administrative claim, which is required to be filed within six months after the date of the shooting, seeks compensation on behalf of the Maxwells and their grandchildren. The County of San Diego has 45 days to approve or deny the claim. If the County denies the claim, the Maxwells are entitled to file a lawsuit.

    The Maxwells are represented by La Bella and McNamara, LLP in San Diego.

    for shooting wife in Alpine home
    August 16, 2007
    By Neal Putnam
    The Alpine Sun
    [Excerpts] A sheriff's deputy from Alpine pleaded guilty Tuesday, Aug. 14, to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife with his service weapon. A previous judge refused to allow the plea agreement on July 13, but another judge accepted the plea by Lowell "Sam" Bruce after the maximum sentence was increased to 21 years in state prison... With the plea, there is no appeal, said [Deputy District Attorney Bill] Gentry... Bruce worked as a corrections officer inside the Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility at the time. He was still classified as a sheriff's deputy, but is expected to be terminated because of this felony conviction. Bruce Maxwell testified earlier that he though his daughter [Kristen] was kicking Bruce out to the home because all his clothes were dumped on the floor.

    U-T San Diego News
    Greg Moran
    Oct. 24, 2010
    [Excerpts] Almost four years after an off-duty San Diego County sheriff’s deputy fatally shot his wife in the face at their Alpine home, a federal civil-rights suit filed by the woman’s parents against the Sheriff’s Department has won a ruling that clears the way for a possible trial. The parents contend that sheriff’s deputies mishandled the investigation the night of Dec. 14, 2006, when Kristin Maxwell-Bruce was shot by her husband, Lowell Bruce. The suits says the deputies caused a critical delay in getting medical care for Maxwell-Bruce that could have saved her life. The lawsuit also seeks damages from the county for unlawful detention and excessive force against Jim Maxwell, the victim’s father. It says he was pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton, and handcuffed and arrested by a deputy when he attempted to be with his wife after learning his daughter had died... “This was a situation where it was mishandled from the moment they arrived until they left,” said Charles La Bella, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego who is representing the Maxwell family... Bruce is serving a 15-year sentence in Ironwood State Prison in Blythe in Riverside County after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a plea bargain... Two judges balked at accepting that plea, with one saying it looked as if Bruce — initially charged with murder — was getting special treatment because he was a deputy and the second wanting the discretion to sentence him to a longer or shorter sentence... In a deposition taken for the lawsuit, a sheriff’s sergeant described a heated argument he had with another deputy in the days after the shooting. The deputy accused the sergeant of mishandling the crime scene “because he didn’t want the ambulance to leave,” the deposition says... [LINK]

    Voice of San Diego
    By Kelly Thornton
    Friday, July 10, 2009
    [Excerpts] Lowell Bruce, a deputy sheriff who fatally shot his wife in their Alpine home in 2006, twice failed the county's psychological evaluations and was rejected for employment by eight other law enforcement agencies, but was ultimately hired by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department anyway... "Not only did the county recklessly hire Bruce, but thereafter provided him with a Glock handgun, and allowed him to take it home with him … Bruce was permitted to take that weapon home, and as a result, at least six lives were forever altered." Those lives included Bruce and his wife, Kristin Marie Maxwell-Bruce, 38, their two young boys, and her parents, Jim and Kay Maxwell... The psychological evaluations showed a history of physical violence and that Bruce "would tend to resort to violence as a way of resolving interpersonal differences with others," the lawsuit said. On the second evaluation, which Bruce instigated as part of an appeal, the private psychologist who contracted with the county to perform the evaluation informed him in a rejection letter: "My recommendation, in part, was made due to your history of physical altercations with others and test results which suggest that you lack more creative ways of resolving differences with others. In a corrections setting this behavior and the lack of other means to resolve interpersonal problems, would not be successful." He was then rejected by the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego Harbor Police, Chula Vista Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department and three public safety agencies in Washington State, according to the county application... Despite having the knowledge that Bruce failed the psychological test twice, and being rejected by at least eight other law enforcement agencies, he was still ultimately hired by the Sheriff's Department, and went on to fatally shoot his wife... [LINK]

    Voice of San Diego
    Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009
    [Excerpts] After San Diego County sheriff's Deputy Lowell "Sam" Bruce shot his wife in the face in front of their 4-year-old son, Kristin Marie Maxwell-Bruce was able to walk to the kitchen phone and dial 911. As she waited for medical help on that December evening in 2006, Kristin was alert and talking — but it was with some difficulty because the bullet had destroyed half her tongue and the left side of her jaw. She told her mother she was worried about her teeth; her mother assured her they could be fixed. Upon arrival at the Alpine home, medics found that Kristin's vital signs — pulse, body temperature, blood pressure and respiratory rate — were within normal range. But Kristin's family claims a shocking series of blunders and delays by Sheriff's investigators and medics resulted in a lonely and unnecessary death an hour later for the 38-year-old mother of two... "During the last hour of Kristin's life, defendants refused to let her parents see her, refused to let them speak to her or comfort her, and refused to let Jim and Kay Maxwell see, speak to or comfort each other," the [wrongful-death] lawsuit said. The sheriff's officials "prevented Kristin from receiving proper medical treatment, falsely imprisoned Kristin and the Maxwells, and prevented the Maxwells from association with their daughter in the last hour of her life." Meanwhile, the shooter, Lowell Bruce, a corrections deputy at Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility in Santee, was never handcuffed, and was permitted to make a phone call on another deputy's cell phone, the lawsuit contends. Adding to the family's outrage were two discoveries soon after the shooting: Friends sifting through Lowell Bruce's belongings discovered documents indicating the deputy had twice failed psychological examinations when applying to work for the Sheriff's Department in 1993. But despite that initial rejection by the department, and at least eight other agencies, five years later the Sheriff's Department did ultimately hire and arm a man they'd deemed too violent for the job. Also, at a debriefing about the incident attended by Sheriff's officials, one of the deputies got into a heated exchange with a sergeant, telling the sergeant he "fucked the crime scene up" because he "didn't want to let the ambulance leave"... The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and alleges wrongful death, gross negligence, battery, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit names the county of San Diego, the Alpine Fire Protection District, Lowell Bruce, Sheriff's Capt. Gregory Reynolds, Sgt. Michael Knobbe, Lt. Anthony Salazar, deputies Jeffrey Jackson, Warren Voth, Gary Kneeshaw, William Reilly and L. Rodriguez; Alpine Fire District employees Brian Boggeln, Colby Ross, Chip Howell, Michael Mead; and Viejas Fire Department employees Bradley Avi and Jeremy Felber... [LINK]

    San Diego Magazine
    By Kelly Thornton
    Aug 12, 2010
    [Excerpts] ...In the latest development, U.S. District Judge John Houston granted the county’s request to dismiss the case against it, saying he found no evidence any policymakers condoned the actions of the deputies. But he declined to do the same for all the sheriff’s officials named in the suit... Houston said there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial: “This court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact to be resolved as to the deliberate indifference to medical needs claim.” He also wrote: “Based on a careful review of the evidence presented, this court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact to be resolved as to whether the force used to restrain Jim Maxwell was reasonable under the circumstances. At a minimum, such a determination should be made by a jury.” [LINK]


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