Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.
QUESTION: Sometime in early 1997, a teenager named Andrew Hesser was shot and killed in Elk Grove. I believe the story at the time was that he was trying to break into a car. What exactly were the circumstances surrounding his death, and were charges ever filed against his killer?
Submitted by: Andy, Elk Grove
ANSWER: Andrew Hesser, 17 and a junior at Laguna Creek High School, was killed in March 1997 during an apparent burglary of a car belonging to a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy.
According to stories in The Bee, Deputy Sherman Watson found Hesser standing next to a parked car outside his Elk Grove home after he was awakened about 3 a.m. by the barking of dogs.
The deputy said he armed himself with a handgun and went outside intending to make an arrest. When he identified himself and told the youth not to move, Hesser reportedly turned and pointed a handgun at the deputy. Watson then fired one round, striking Hesser in the head, and three other youths who were with Hesser sped away in their car.
Investigating officers found next to Hesser a loaded handgun that Watson said he had inadvertently left in his vehicle. Also found nearby were other items taken from Watson's car.
The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office concluded that the shooting was a justifiable homicide, stating that it was reasonable for Watson to believe that Hesser intended to shoot and that his life was in danger.
Hesser's parents, Noel and Mary Hesser, publicly stated that they forgave Watson. Although they believed he had other options, they said they bore him no malice and and that they would not file any wrongful death suits against the deputy.
In a prepared statement, they said, "We would like it said that we do not want Andrew to be remembered for the last events of his life any more than the officer should be remembered for the moment of firing the gun."