A jury convicted Luis Bracamontes Friday in the 2014 slayings of two Sacramento-area deputies, giving the self-confessed cop killer what he has insisted he wanted all along: a chance at being executed.
After about five hours of deliberation, the jury declared him guilty of murdering Sacramento sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, then Placer sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. The verdict came on what would have been Oliver’s 51st birthday.
“Yay,” Bracamontes said quietly as the Oliver verdict was read, smiling toward the deputy’s widow sitting in the front row. In all, he was convicted on all of the 15 counts he faced, as well as five special circumstances.
After all the verdicts were read, Bracamontes looked at the families of the deputies and said, “Congratulations.”
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“I’m gonna kill more cops soon,” he added as he was taken out of the Sacramento Superior Court chamber.
Starting March 5, the same jury will begin hearing arguments on whether he should receive the death penalty for his day of carnage.
Bracamontes’ wife, whose trial on murder and other charges was held simultaneously – but before a separate jury – is still awaiting a verdict. She could be sentenced to 25 years to life if convicted of helping him carry out his crimes.
Bracamontes has raged in the courtroom during hearings over the past three and a half years, alternately saying he killed the officers, wanted to kill more and wanted to be executed.
His defense attorneys have said he is mentally ill and should not have faced trial, and argued to the jury Thursday morning that he was delusional and paranoid from methamphetamine use the day of the slayings on Oct. 24, 2014.
But the jurors, who witnessed a series of outbursts from Bracamontes that included threats and racist slurs since his trial began last month, rejected that argument.
All through the day Friday, family members and co-workers of the slain officers milled about the courthouse outside Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White’s courtroom.
Deputies who survived a firefight with Bracamontes showed up for the verdict, including former Placer Deputy Chuck Bardo, decked out in a black shirt emblazoned with “Michael Davis Jr - End of Watch.”
Former Detective Mike Simmons, Davis’ partner and best friend, also showed up.
“There really is no closure; nothing will bring Danny back,” said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones after the verdicts were read.
The rampage rocked the Sacramento region when it erupted in the parking lot of a Motel 6 on Arden Way, where Oliver was killed with a shot to the head when he approached Bracamontes’ Mercury Marquis.
Oliver’s partner, Deputy Scott Brown, returned fire, emptying his entire clip into the car as Bracamontes fired an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle at him, then fled with his wife as the Mercury drove over Oliver’s body.
The couple fled to a nearby cul de sac, Spanos Court, where Bracamontes tried to carjack a man who had arrived early for a doctor’s appointment. That motorist, Anthony Holmes, refused to give up his car and was shot five times, three in the face.
He survived, and came to be referred to at trial by prosecutors as “the luckiest man in the world.”
Bracamontes then carjacked a Ford Mustang driven by Chantelle Robinson, and ordered his wife to move the AR-15 from the Mercury to the Mustang.
From there, the couple drove up Fair Oaks Boulevard and ended up in Arden Park, where they came upon gardener Jose Salas and his red Ford F-150 pickup truck. Bracamontes told him he wanted the truck, and helped him unhook Salas’ lawn equipment trailer before taking the truck. He also ordered his wife to park the Mustang across the street and bring the rifle to the truck.
From there, the couple drove up Interstate 80 toward Auburn, but pulled off the highway after seeing electronic traffic signs alerting motorists to be on the lookout for the truck and its armed and dangerous occupants.
They ended up in an Auburn cul de sac, where Bracamontes engaged in a gunfight with Placer County sheriff’s deputies, killing Davis with a shot from the AR-15 and wounding Deputy Jeffrey Davis (who is not related to the dead detective).
Monroy, who had been hiding on the rear floor of the truck’s cab, called 911 from there and surrendered to officers. Bracamontes fled, eventually ending up in a house where he wrote a suicide note and turned on the gas stove in an attempt to blow up the house.
Instead of suicide, however, he crawled out of the house asking officers not to kill him.
The slew of violence paralyzed the region, with schools on lockdown and officers from every area police department responding to various crime scenes.
Investigators needed months to determine how a couple with no ties to California ended up in Sacramento.
Testimony showed the couple had what prosecutors called a dysfunctional marriage marked by repeated affairs and drug use.
Bracamontes, a Mexican citizen who had been deported repeatedly and had a felony drug and weapons history in Arizona, had been living in a Salt Lake City suburb for years with his wife and his brother, Hector.
Bracamontes worked two jobs six days a week, both as a house painter and in the landscaping business he ran with his brother. He smoked marijuana every day, and used cocaine on the weekends, according to testimony.
His wife of 12 years was a manager in a loan office, and some time in 2014 began using methamphetamine because friends had told her it would help her lose weight.
Bracamontes supposedly warned her against the drug, warning that it makes people behave erratically, but he became addicted after she introduced him to it, his lawyers contended.
Eventually, he became convinced his brother was having an affair with his wife and that the police were coming for him.
None of that was true, but he packed Monroy into the car and left Utah, abandoning the couple’s dogs and driving with a vague notion of heading for Las Vegas or Oregon.
They crossed through Nevada and eventually ended up in Vacaville, where they asked for directions to Oregon.
Instead of finding their way north, however, the couple arrived at the Motel 6 near Arden Fair Mall the night of Oct. 23, 2014. Video footage from the motel – now demolished – showed the two checking in and wandering off to room 150 arm in arm.
Throughout the night, testimony showed, Bracamontes smoked meth, stared out the window and woke his wife up for sex. In the morning, he smoked more meth, testimony showed, and they went to the parking lot to clean out the car and depart.
That was when Oliver, a veteran deputy who had cruised the motel parking lot dozens of times watching for trouble, drove through and saw the Mercury with its trunk open and two occupants.
“Two in a car,” Oliver said to his partner in what apparently were his last words.
Oliver approached the driver side of the car while Brown went to ask for identification from Monroy, and Bracamontes suddenly shot Oliver in the forehead before the deputy could draw his weapon.
That was the start of a dramatic saga that will continue with the penalty phase and, eventually, the appeals.
There is little doubt that Bracamontes’ lawyers will continue to argue he is too mentally ill to have faced trial.
But they left no question about whether he was guilty. They called no defense witnesses, and did not have Bracamontes testify.
Twice, once in opening statements and again in closing arguments on Thursday, they acknowledged what he had done.
“He shot both of them,” public defender Norm Dawson declared.
Jurors apparently believed him.