3rd man admits to decade-old shooting of Oceanside police officer

Officer Daniel S. Bessant

SAN DIEGO — More than a decade after the murder of Oceanside Police Officer Dan Bessant, a third person has been convicted in connection with his shooting.

Jose Compre, 28, on Friday admitted to one felony count of manslaughter in connection with the December 2006 attack. The terms of Compre’s plea deal call for 25 years in state prison, though he’ll officially be sentenced in Vista on May 31, 2019.

Compre was jailed as a minor in connection with the shooting shortly after the attack on Bessant, but he was originally cleared of charges when a preliminary hearing found there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the teen. Compre was then re-arrested in 2016. Officials at the time said they could not discuss what led to the new charges.

“This plea holds another defendant accountable for his role in the heartless murder of Officer Bessant and brings an additional measure of justice for Officer Bessant’s family and friends, the community and his law enforcement colleagues,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan in a news release.

Police say Compre and two other underage gang members opened fire on Bessant while he was helping another officer with a traffic stop. Police believe Compre and a second shooter, Penifoti Taeotui, did not actually hit the officer. But the third teen, Meki Gaono, crouched behind a brick mailbox and shot the officer from nearly 400 feet away with a scoped rifle, investigators determined.

The .22-caliber bullet hit Bessant under his left armpit — just missing his protective vest — and pierced his heart before exiting his body. The married father of a son was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

In 2008, a jury convicted Taeutui of first-degree murder in the killing. He was sentenced to life in prison. Then, in 2009, a jury found Ganao guilty of first-degree murder — he also received life in prison.

The 25-year-old Bessant was in his third year on the force at the time of his murder. The annual Dan Bessant Run in Oceanside commemorates the officer’s life.