Crime - Sacto 911

Mendocino prosecutor pleads guilty in gun case

A former Mendocino County deputy district attorney who shot a man in the stomach during a midnight street fight in downtown Sacramento last year has pleaded guilty to illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

Damon Eric Gardner, who no longer works for the prosecutor’s office in the North Coast county, entered his plea Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court and was immediately sentenced by Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard to three years’ probation and 30 days on the sheriff’s work project.

Gardner, 39, was arrested Oct. 17 after the shooting near the corner of 15th and L streets after he and his girlfriend, who also worked as a Mendocino deputy DA but doesn’t anymore, came out of de Vere’s Irish Pub.

According to court documents, the two “did have a disagreement” in de Vere’s when she wanted to return to the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel while he wanted to stay for a few more drinks.

She told investigators that when she began to walk back toward the hotel, she heard a disturbance behind her and turned around and saw two men beating Gardner.

At one point, it appeared to her one of the men was kicking Gardner in the head “like it was a soccer ball,” according to a Sacramento police investigator’s report in the court file.

The report said Gardner then retrieved his Ruger LCR .38 revolver and fired at one of the men who had him on the ground, hitting him in the abdomen with the bullet passing through his body without hitting any organs.

Officials said the man survived the shooting.

Sacramento prosecutors filed two counts on Gardner related to his possession of the gun, for which he had a carry permit. The permit, however, was invalid if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which led to the criminal filing.

Prosecutors dismissed the other count on Gardner of carrying a concealed weapon in public.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said Friday the shooting appeared to be in self-defense.

“We felt there was sufficient evidence we couldn’t overcome self-defense,” Grippi said in an interview.

According to the detective’s report, Gardner and his girlfriend had been drinking since 5:30 p.m., starting off the evening with a pitcher of beer and a couple of whiskeys and ginger ales at the Cafe Bernardo/KBar.

Then they went up K Street to the Dive Bar for two vodka and Red Bulls and headed back to the hotel for another one of those before walking to de Vere’s for some 20-ounce black-and-tans – two for him, one for her, the report said.

Gardner’s blood-alcohol level at the time law enforcement officers tested him registered 0.079, or slightly below the legal limit to drive.

The former prosecutor, who is now in private practice in Ukiah, was on medical leave at the time of the shooting. He declined to comment Friday.