Family Wants to Know What Happened

After 25 years in local law enforcement, I retired as a Sheriff’s Sergeant in 2001 and I am now a private investigator.

I was hired by the Berns family to assist them in finding out how and why Jerry Berns was killed. Jerry Berns was shot to death on 3-9-2011 at about 11 p.m. when he came close to a warehouse in Santa Maria that was used to grow marijuana.

The following day, the family was told by Santa Maria Police Department that Jerry had a gun and had come to rob the marijuana growers. The P.D. said that Jerry shot at David Jones and Manuel Reyes and one or both of them shot back at Jerry, striking him several times, killing him.

According to the Santa Maria P.D., the shooting is considered to be a justifiable homicide, yet they refuse to release the police reports or the Coroner’s Report nearly a year after the shooting.

The brother of the victim, Rod Berns, went to the mortuary to view his brother’s body and found not only bullet holes but Taser Stun Gun burns on the body. He took photos of the marks. The brother saw photos of the area just outside the warehouse, where his brother’s body was left. The pavement showed blood smears indicating that his brother’s body was dragged there. Santa Maria Police admitted that someone had dragged the body of his brother from inside of the building to the outside after he was shot. No one would tell him why this was done nor by whom.

Police detectives told the family that Jerry was shot inside the marijuana grow warehouse and dragged outside before they called the police. No one would give the family details of the incident nor comment on the Taser Stun Gun burns.

When Rod Berns was attempting to get copies of the police report, he received a letter signed by Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley stating that the case has been reviewed by several Deputy District Attorneys and they rejected the idea of filing charges against Jones or Reyes. Joyce Dudley goes on to say that the current status of the case is that the case is rejected.

There was one meeting held between the D.A.’s office and the victim’s family. During that meeting, the mother of the deceased was told that her son was not a victim but was there to rob the marijuana growers and was killed doing so. Details of the homicide were not revealed to the family by the D.A.’s office nor the Santa Maria PD.

After several of my calls to Detective Sergeant Flaa (Santa Maria P.D.) went unanswered, I went and spoke with the Records Supervisor at the Santa Maria P.D. I requested that I be allowed to read the police reports so I could inform the family of what had happened that night. I would be willing to be locked in a room with a camera recording my every move while I read through the reports so that they could be assured that nothing was removed nor photographed without their permission. In doing so, I could decipher exactly what happened and inform the family.

The Records Supervisor, Bonnie Vaillancourt, told me that she would talk with Sgt. Flaa and if he will consent to releasing the reports, she will release the reports to the family. She said that although the D.A.’s Office had rejected the case and the detectives are not currently working any more leads on the case, something might come up that would cause them to re-open the case. She said that once they open the case up to the family, anyone could request copies of the case and then everyone would know what had happened. That was several weeks ago and no decision has been made.

The family just wants to know what happened to their loved one. The case has been completed and the D.A.’s Office has completed its investigation. The family just wants closure.


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