For retired Turlock Police Sgt. Dan Gray justice has been served up too late and light for his liking.
Twelve years ago Gray was swept into the nightmarish situation of staring up at a gun barrel with a known criminal at the other end.
Gray walked away from the encounter with a gunshot injury to his right arm and his shooter, while Bailey Carlton Groves Jr. walked out of a courtroom two years later a free man.
“He was not someone who should be out,” Gray said. “He’s a violent man who has always been on the wrong end of the law. It was just a matter of time before he hurt someone else.”
Gray’s prediction rang true a little more than a decade later, when Groves would once again be facing a charge in a Stanislaus County courtroom of attempted murder of a peace officer. But this time the story would have a new ending.
Groves spent his burgeoning adult years building up his rap sheet. By the time he was 30 years old he was no stranger to the police blotter and had racked up arrests for a variety of misdemeanors and felonies. When officers were tasked with picking him up on an outstanding warrant on Oct. 1, 2001, it didn’t take much investigative work to track him to the Almond Tree Inn on Glenwood Avenue in Turlock.
Knowing the police were coming to take him in, Groves — as he later testified — shot a syringe full of methamphetamine into his arm and tucked an unregistered 9 millimeter handgun into the waistband of his pants.
The officers at the scene had good reason to suspect Groves was armed and sent in Gray, the shift supervisor, to keep the situation from reaching a violent end.
Gray’s task of taking Groves in got off to a good start. He had the armed Groves calm and engaged in conversation. When Groves asked him for a cigarette, Gray thought the incident had turned a corner and that Groves would soon be in custody. It was right about that time that a gunshot shattered the parlay and a bullet pierced Gray’s forearm.
In the tumult of what followed, Gray’s Taser was fired and struck one of the officers responding to the gunfire and Groves dropped his gun and surrendered.
During the trial the prosecution would say Groves had every intention of leaving Gray dead on that motel floor and he would have succeeded if not for bad aim.
Groves’ defense attorney claimed the shooting was an accident sparked by Gray’s sudden movement.
Groves was charged with attempted murder of a peace officer, and, given the evidence against him, a guilty verdict seemed like a foregone conclusion, which is why it was such a shock to Gray and other law enforcement when the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
To prove attempted murder a prosecutor has to prove intent and in the end the jury just didn’t believe Groves intended to kill Gray that day.
In Gray’s mind there has never been any doubt about Groves’ intent. When word came last year that Groves was once again headed to trial for shooting at a Turlock Police officer, it was greeted with an air of expectation from Gray.
“I knew it was just a matter of time,” Gray said. “If he was willing to shoot once, he’d be willing to shoot again.”
A second shooting
It was the early morning hours of May 4, 2012, and a Turlock Police officer spotted a vehicle being driven with the headlights off. The officer attempted to pull the vehicle over, but the driver , later identified as Groves, sped off instead.
The pursuit hit speeds of more than 80 mph and traversed through Turlock and north Merced county for 30 minutes before Groves crashed the car in a Snelling field.
During the pursuit Groves pulled out a firearm and fired multiple rounds at the officer trailing after him. None of the rounds struck the officer, but one did leave a load of buckshot into the shoulder of Groves’ back passenger.
Groves’ two other passengers were injured in the rollover crash. He left them all behind as he tried to continue his flight from law enforcement on foot. His attempt to elude arrest came to an end a few hours later when he was found hiding in the field.
Once again facing an attempted murder of a peace officer charge, Groves was ready to take his chances again with a jury. That is until the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office secured the three passengers as witnesses against Groves.
“When he saw we had them as witnesses, he decided to take the plea deal,” said Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson, who prosecuted the recent case against Groves. The plea deal was finalized in the last two weeks.
Groves, 43, pled guilty to assault on a peace officer with a firearm with an enhancement for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison with credit limitations, meaning he will have to serve most of his sentence.
For Gray, who still bears the scar from his encounter with Groves, 18 years doesn’t seem adequate.
“It’s not enough time,” Gray said. “Is he going to get a third chance down the road? It’s like he’s doing life on the installment plan.”