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Thursday, August 21, 2008

CA Deputy Jailed After Tow Truck Confrontation

Here's The Desert Sun story:
A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy faces felony assault charges after he allegedly handcuffed and held a tow-truck driver at gunpoint along Interstate 10, about 45 miles east of Indio.

Richard Charles Heverly, 41, of La Verne was arrested Monday and booked into the Riverside County jail in Indio. He was released later that day on $150,000 bail.

He faces four felony charges for the Aug. 10 incident involving tow-truck driver Roger Gilstrap, whose hometown was not available Tuesday.

Charges against Heverly include assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault under the color of authority, making a criminal threat and false imprisonment.

According to a statement by Michael Jeandron, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, Gilstrap had noticed a “big rig” fire on the side of the freeway, near Eagle Mountain Road. While on the phone with police dispatch, the tow-truck driver blocked the freeway with his vehicle to keep people away from the fire until emergency personnel arrived.

Heverly then approached the tow-truck driver and flashed his badge.

“Witness reports indicate that Heverly escalated the confrontation by unlawfully handcuffing and holding the tow- truck driver at gunpoint,” Jeandron said.

Indio resident Sean Moore was traveling a few cars behind the tow-truck driver and saw some of the events unfold.

“The tow-truck driver looked scared. It looked like (Heverly) had the guy's hands behind his back,” Moore said.

He then noticed the off-duty officer taking photos of the tow- truck driver.

“He stuck a digital camera into his face. I don't know why,” Moore said.

As a witness to some of the events, Moore was subsequently interviewed by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's internal affairs unit and the California Highway Patrol.

The district attorney's office is now pursuing charges.

“The Riverside County District Attorney's Office has the authority to prosecute crimes that occur within Riverside County,” Jeandron said.

Heverly is scheduled to for arraignment on Oct. 29.

Xochitl Peña covers Indio and Coachella for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at 360-1340 or at xochitl.pena@thedesertsun.com.

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