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$5M bail set for man accused in death of Oceanside cop decade after shooting

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VISTA, Calif. -- A man accused -- for a second time -- of taking part in the fatal shooting of an Oceanside police officer a decade ago pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge and other criminal counts.

Jose Compre, 26, faces life in prison with no chance of parole if convicted in the Dec. 20, 2006, slaying of 25-year-old Dan Bessant.

At Compre's afternoon arraignment in Vista, a judge ordered the defendant -- who also faces an assault charge and weapon and gang allegations -- held in lieu of $5 million bail.

The suspect's arrest Thursday morning was his second in the case, which netted lifelong prison sentences for two of his one-time gang cohorts. Compre initially was taken into custody shortly after the slaying occurred, but a judge eventually dismissed all charges against him, citing insufficient evidence.

Man arrested in death of Oceanside cop decade after fatal shooting

Following today's hearing, Deputy District Attorney Tom Manning told reporters he could not discuss what led to the renewed allegations against Compre because the defendant's arrest warrant had been sealed by the court.

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 385 feet away with a scope-equipped rifle while hiding behind a brick mailbox in front of Compre's home.

Two other underage gang associates -- Compre was allegedly one of them -- 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.

Gaono was arrested along with Compre 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.

Compre's next court hearing, a status conference, is scheduled for Nov. 9.