San Diego County rookie Deputy Kelly Ann Bazer, 28, was shot and killed by fleeing armed robbers on Jan. 13, 1986, while off-duty on the evening of her sixth day at the Police Academy. The three robbers were later convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.
Bazer became the first San Diego County woman deputy killed in the line of duty and the first San Diego County deputy, male or female, shot and killed since 1865. She was the second woman law enforcement officer killed in San Diego County.
Bazer, who had been sworn in as deputy sheriff one month earlier, had attended her sixth day of a 4-month recruit class at the Police Academy, when she parked her car outside her sister’s home. She was wearing a deputy s uniform but without insignia or a badge. She made a practice of stopping by her sister’s home each evening to report on her day at the Academy.
Suddenly two armed men ran out into the street and one was hollering at her to give him her car keys. The two men had just robbed the Safeway (grocery) Store and escaped with $2,000 in cash after brutally beating and robbing the store manager and holding several hostages inside the store.
The robbery was apparently poorly planned as their get-away driver was not there as they exited the store and they hijacked a car from a man outside the store. However, the two fleeing robbers soon abandoned that car when they could not figure out how to release the emergency brake. As they fled on foot, they saw Bazer parking her car and one said to the other, “There’s our ride.”
As the two men approached Bazer shouting that they wanted her car keys, she attempted to flee. She was not armed and was wearing a cadet uniform which did not identify her as a deputy sheriff. One of the robbers shot Bazer in the back from five feet away, and she fell to the pavement. One robber then bent down and picked up her car keys, and the two men fled the scene in Bazer’s auto, a blue Ford Mustang.
As neighbors ran to help the fallen Bazer, a red pick-up truck pulled up to the crime scene, asked where the men had gone, and then sped away. The neighbors thought the pick-up was driven by someone trying to catch the suspects, but police later determined that the driver was the get-away driver who had earlier failed to pick-up his two robber companions.
One of the first deputies to arrive on the scene was Pat Hartigan, who was dating Bazer. He attempted to comfort her as they awaited paramedics. Bazer was rushed to Grossmont Hospital by paramedics but went into full cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. She was pronounced dead at 8:23 p.m.
A massive search team was quickly organized comprised of 200 law enforcement officers from the San Diego Sheriff s Dept., the San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City Police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Border Patrol. The team included five helicopters, horses, and tracking dogs.
Bazer’s car was found abandoned a short distance from the murder scene, and the two robbers got into the red pick-up with their get-away driver. A short time later, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Kevin Rudd saw a head in the bed of a pick-up and suspected illegal aliens were in the pick-up. He turned on his red overhead lights to stop the pick-up which then sped away. During the chase one suspect (unknown to Rudd) was thrown from the pick-up and then the two others jumped from the pick-up, abandoning it in the Bonita area. Agent Rudd found two revolvers, more than $2,000 in cash, a portable police scanner, a ski mask and other evidence inside the pick-up.
Because of Rudd’s alertness the search team was able to focus on the Bonita area. Phone calls came in from several citizens reporting “seeing men running through backyards and jumping fences.” The three suspects were successfully tracked during the all-night manhunt and by 7:42 a.m. all three had been arrested.
Ronnie D. Williams, 20, Jesse L. Stuart, 19, and Prentice Byrd, 19, were arrested and held without bond for the murder of Bazer and the armed robbery of the Safeway. All three were members of the Neighborhood crip gang and had criminal records.
Stuart, 19, the triggerman had a criminal record back to the age of 14.
The three men pled not guilty and were assigned public defenders. Stuart was convicted of first degree murder, robbery and burglary on July 31, 1986. He was sentenced to 35 years to life on Sept. 11, 1986, but that sentence was overturned on appeal. On Dec. 2, 1987, he was again sentenced to 35 years to life.
Ronnie D. Williams was convicted of first-degree murder at trial and sentenced to 33 years and eight months in prison. Prentice Byrd pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life.
Bazer was born Kelly Ann Hotchkiss on May 11, 1957, to Thomas and Gail Hotchkiss. She graduated from Granite Hills High School in 1975 and later studied to become a medical technician. Before joining the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, she worked at the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Center.
Shortly after graduating from high school, she married Michael Bazer, and the couple had two children, Jess, and Andrea. At the time of her death, she and her husband were in the process of a divorce and were involved in a custody dispute over their two children.
Bazer, 28, was hired by the San Diego Co. Sheriff’s Department in late 1985 and was sworn in on Dec. 13. She began a 4-month recruit class with 72 other cadets (including seven women) at the Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista on Jan. 3, 1986. She had been issued her standard Magnum .357-caliber revolver during a firearms class only hours before she was killed but was instructed not to carry the weapon until she had completed her training.
Besides her husband and children, Bazer was survived by her father and stepmother, Thomas and Nancy Hotchkiss of El Cajon; mother, Gail Reed Patterson of Capistrano Beach; and a sister of Spring Valley.