While hindsight is 20-20, the decision some two years ago by a Superior Court Judge may have ultimately taken the life of a San Diego police officer.
According to a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune, it was the summer of 2008 when a probation officer and prosecutor urged Judge Stephanie Sontag to sentence Holim Lee — the man involved in the gun battle that killed San Diego police officer Christopher Wilson last month — to prison for four years for robbing an occupied residence.
Instead, Sontag placed Lee on three years’ probation and sentenced him to a year in county jail.
If Sontag had taken the course of the probation officer and prosecutor’s recommendation, Lee would have remained behind bars until the end of 2011. As it turned out, Lee left jail in May of this year and was on probation at the time of his death, along with the death of a young woman and Wilson, the divorced father of two children.
According to a report obtained by the U-T, Lee had a history of drug use and legal problems, including being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006 following a positive test for drugs. He also had a prior arrest for weapons possession reduced to a misdemeanor.
Wilson, 50, was fatally wounded in a shootout last month at a Skyline apartment. He and other police officers were met with gunfire inside the apartment when they were sent there to help county probation officers and U.S. marshals who were checking on another probationer.
According to law enforcement, probation officials believed Lee also was living in the apartment. He was wanted for shooting a man in the left shoulder in the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant in Rancho San Diego back in July.
When police attempted to arrest him, a gunfight erupted and Wilson was wounded.
After a seven-hour standoff, police found the bodies of Lee, 30, and Lucky Xayasene, 27. He had shot himself, and she was killed by a gunshot wound to the head.
According to the court report, Sontag had listed several factors weighing in favor of probation for Lee back in 2008 – no prior felony record, even though the report listed his misdemeanor weapons offense from earlier in 2008. She also claimed he appeared willing to comply with probation terms.
The factors against probation – the seriousness of the crime, the victim was vulnerable and he played an active role in the crime.
Lee’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Debby Kirkwood, argued to Sontag that sending Lee to prison would be “overly harsh.”
Kirkwood reportedly pleaded with Sontag to give Lee a break. “He is extremely remorseful and embarrassed about his behavior; he promises this court will never see him again,” she wrote.
As it turns out, two children will never see their father (Wilson) again.
Maybe next time, a person in Lee’s position will not get a slap on the wrist and will do some more serious time.