A bounty hunter accused of fatally shooting a knife-wielding fugitive in front of Palm Springs police officers trying to subdue him must stand trial on murder and other charges, a judge ruled Monday.
Fabian Hector Herrera, 36, was arrested in April for the alleged shooting death of 33-year-old David Spann.
Following a two-day preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Russell Moore found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the murder count, as well as being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, felon in possession of body armor and felon in possession of ammunition, along with multiple sentence-enhancing allegations.
“To reiterate the court’s conclusions, defendant was not authorized to work as a (bounty hunter) and he knew it,” Moore said.
“He nevertheless went ahead and worked as a de facto (bounty hunter) anyway, and he successfully concealed his ineligibility from others save and except his mother.”
Moore set a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Oct. 4 at the Indio courthouse. Herrera is being held in lieu of $2 million bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
The shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m. on April 23 in the 100 block of East Via Escuela. According to investigators, Herrera allegedly opened fire on Spann when the victim lunged toward him and several police officers inside Spann’s home.
During the defendant’s preliminary hearing, which began in August, Jose Navarro, owner of Jose Navarro Bail Bonds, testified that Spann was wanted because his home detention ankle bracelet had been deactivated for over 48 hours.
According to Navarro, efforts to contact Spann had failed.
The witness said Herrera was not a direct employee, but one of many contract fugitive recovery agents dispatched to arrest bail jumpers and others. Navarro testified that Herrera provided certificates proving he had completed fugitive recovery training courses.
Navarro said he instructed the defendant to wrangle Spann, telling Herrera the victim was wanted for a misdemeanor.
Jail records show Spann posted a $100,000 bond on April 1 in a misdemeanor restraining order violation case.
Herrera spoke to police multiple times prior to officers being dispatched, investigators said. At one point, the defendant called to say he needed help, according to testimony.
Officers also received a call from Spann, who said someone was trying to break into his home, along with a call from Spann’s alarm company to report the same incident.
Officers encountered the fugitive allegedly armed with a knife and refusing to drop it, prompting an officer to use a stun gun on him, but he continued to defy officers’ orders, police said.
Early preliminary hearing testimony indicated that body-worn video from one of the officers showed the stun gun deployment, and audio revealed one officer telling Herrera, “You got lethal.”
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jarred Bishop testified that this was an indication the officer wanted backup to contain the suspect.
According to Bishop, the officer mistakenly believed that Herrera was a lawman, even though he had earlier identified himself to dispatchers as a fugitive recovery agent.
Bishop testified that the stun gun did not activate properly, giving Spann time to gather himself from the floor and advance toward the officer with the knife.
Audio from the camera footage picks up the officer saying “shoot,” at which point Herrera opens fire, killing the fugitive on the spot.
No Palm Springs police officers fired their weapons.
The investigation was turned over to the sheriff’s Force Investigations Detail to prevent a conflict of interest for Palm Springs police, culminating in Herrera’s arrest.
His mother, 53-year-old Lisa Roberta Vargas, was additionally arrested and is charged with murder, supplying a felon with a firearm and perjury. She’s due in court on Oct. 12 for a status conference.
Herrera could face life in prison if convicted.
He has two felony convictions, both for assault with a deadly weapon — one in Los Angeles County, and the other in Riverside County, according to court records.
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