By: SCOTT MARSHALL - Staff Writer North County Times | Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003 12:00 am
VISTA -- The man who instigated a gun battle with sheriff's deputies that killed a sheriff's canine and injured an Explorer scout was sentenced Thursday to multiple life terms in prison.
Robert Quintero, 34, must serve at least 91 years in prison before he would become eligible for parole, Deputy District Attorney Steve Carver said.
Quintero was convicted in August of three counts of attempted murder and other charges, including shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a firearm in connection with events early the morning of Jan. 18 in Vista.
Before sentencing Quintero, Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wagner commended sheriff's Explorer Brenton Tracy, 21, and deputies Dan Settle and Henry Lebitski for their bravery as Quintero shot at them. Wagner also said Quintero had shown no remorse for his actions, instead feeling sorry only for the predicament in which he put himself.
"Mr. Quintero set in motion a sequence of events that night that must be punished," Wagner said.
Settle and Tracy have testified that a gunman opened fire on them early in the morning of Jan. 18 as they responded to a call of shots fired on Hacienda Drive near the Vista jail. Settle identified the shooter as Quintero.
Settle returned fire and chased Quintero on foot with Lebitski after a first volley of shots ended, he testified. Quintero turned and fired at the two deputies again as he fled, Settle testified. Quintero was arrested a day later.
Quintero shot and killed Settle's canine partner, a German shepherd named Urk, during the gunfight near the patrol car. Authorities concluded one of the shots Settle fired struck Tracy in the arm.
During an emotional statement in court Thursday, Settle said he, Tracy and Lebitski came "about as close to death as you can."
Settle urged Wagner to send a message that behavior such as Quintero's will not be tolerated. The deputy cited the shooting death of Oceanside police Officer Tony Zeppetella, asking whether the officer would still be alive if the man charged with murdering him, Adrian George Camacho, 28, had been sentenced more severely in his prior court appearances on other cases.
Settle also read a letter to Urk, describing the dog as "a true hero who is sorely missed by everyone."
Tracy told Wagner about going through two surgeries and months of painful physical therapy for the injury he suffered, as well as experiencing ongoing emotional affects from the shooting.
"Every day I have to relive what happened on the night of Jan. 18," Tracy said. "Some days are worse than others. Sometimes it's like a videotape playing over and over and over."
After Thursday's hearing, Tracy said he was cleared three weeks ago to return to the Explorer program, a kind of law enforcement internship for youths 16 to 21 years old. Tracy said he expects to need one more surgery and more physical therapy after that, but he still plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. Wagner said the community can only hope that Tracy continues in law enforcement.
Quintero apologized in court for his actions, saying he would give the deputies a new dog and change his acts of that night if he could.
"I'm sorry to society and the brave men that patrol and guard our streets and the innocent people they devote their lives to," Quintero said.
Quintero also reiterated his position that he intended only to scare the deputies and Tracy and that he did not see Urk or anyone in the patrol car when he fired the shots. Wagner said that version of events is "beyond understanding for all of us, I suppose."
Contact staff writer Scott Marshall at (760) 631-6623 or email@example.com.