Man arrested in death of Oceanside cop decade after fatal shooting

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Officer Daniel S. Bessant

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A man who was jailed as a juvenile a decade ago in connection with the fatal shooting of an Oceanside police officer, then cleared of charges due to insufficient evidence, was re-arrested in the case Thursday.

Jose Compre, 26, was taken into custody Thursday morning in the 1200 block of El Camino Real for allegedly participating in the murder of 25-year-old Dan Bessant near Melba Bishop Park on Dec. 20, 2006, Oceanside police Officer Kathleen Vincent said.

Authorities declined to immediately disclose what led to the renewal of accusations against Compre in the case, which netted lifelong prison sentences for two of the suspect’s one-time gang cohorts.

Bessant, who had been with the Oceanside Police Department for three years, was assisting a fellow officer with an early evening traffic stop at Arthur Avenue and Gold Drive when 17-year-old Meki Gaono shot him from about from 385 feet away with a scope-equipped rifle from behind a brick mailbox in front of Compre’s home.

Two other underage gang associates — allegedly including Compre — opened fire along with Gaono in the direction of the officers, but the rounds from their pistols did not hit anyone, according to prosecutors.

A bullet from the .22-caliber rifle struck Bessant under his left armpit — just missing his protective vest — and pierced his heart before exiting his body. The married father of a 2-year-old son was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Compre and Gaono were arrested that night. The third alleged shooter, 16- year-old Penifoti Taeotui, was taken into custody two weeks later.

Gaono and Taeotui were immediately charged as adults with murdering Bessant, but Compre was held in juvenile hall on a probation violation and unrelated criminal counts for eight months before being charged in Bessant’s slaying.

Because the defendants were minors at the time of the shooting, they were ineligible for the death penalty.

Following a 10-day preliminary hearing in 2008, a judge dismissed all charges against Compre.

Later that year, a jury convicted Taeotui first-degree murder. In January 2009, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The following June, Gaono received that same punishment, with an extra 61 years tacked onto his term.

In a 2007 court filing, a prosecutor stated that the defendants had targeted Bessant because he was serving as a neighborhood policing officer in charge of instituting tougher enforcement in an area rife with gang violence.

Police plan to release more information about Compre’s re-arrest in the case following his arraignment next week, Vincent said.