Judge Fall Reduces Bail in Davis Gun Incident

benson-nicholas.jpgJudge Timothy Fall on Friday agreed to reduce the bail for UC Davis student Nicholas Benson, from one million dollars to 100,000 dollars, in order to enable the family to seek mental health support for Mr. Benson while his case is pending trial.

Mr. Benson, 25, was arrested on January 21 after his family called the police, fearing he was suicidal.  The incident, according to police sources, escalated from there and Mr. Benson was Tasered and finally taken into custody, but not before he allegedly made terrorists threats to police while carrying an assault rifle, shotgun and more than 300 rounds of ammunition in his truck.

Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Robert Gorman objected to his release resulting from the reduced bail, arguing that Mr. Benson remains a threat to the community, and that while at some point mental health facilities would be appropriate, it is too soon for him to be released from custody.

Deputy DA Gorman made a show of the hearing, arguing that if it had not been for the efforts of the Davis PD, Davis might have been added to the list of incidents such as at Virginia Tech and Tucson.

He also argued that Mr. Benson was not mentally disabled, pointing to records of phone calls to his family from Yolo County Jail in which they were discussing what he should wear to the trial and making a reference that he did not want to look evil.

Apparently to the prosecutor, in order to be mentally disabled, one must always be.  The reality is, as defense attorney Steve Sabbadini suggested, that mentally ill individuals often have moments where they carry out lucid conversations. He argued that this was not unusual for Mr. Benson to do so.

Judge Fall denied a defense motion that would have released Benson on his own recognizance in order to receive psychiatric care.

He argued that, at the very least, Mr. Benson represents a threat to himself, if not the entire community.

He did agree to reduce bail to $100,000, citing the fact that the $1 million bail was based on a lack of knowledge that Mr. Benson lacked any criminal history or other violent outbursts.

According to the police’s account, at approximately 6:00 PM on that Friday evening, Davis Police Officers were dispatched to the downtown area to search for an armed suicidal 25-year-old UC Davis student, Nicholas Benson.

After Mr. Benson received numerous commands to surrender, he allegedly resisted and headed straight for his vehicle.  Just as Mr. Benson entered the cab of his pickup truck, officers used a Taser and other non-lethal measures to subdue him and take him into custody.

The police found in his vehicle a loaded rifle with a telescopic sight, and a loaded shotgun. They also located hundreds of rounds of rifle ammunition in Benson’s possession.

His attorney Steve Sabbadini told reporters outside of the Courthouse, after the arraignment on January 26, that Mr. Benson is a good kid who needs help.

“He grew up in Davis, graduated from Davis High School.  UCD student.  Never been in trouble, never arrested.  Essentially just a meltdown that has to be addressed,” Mr. Sabbadini said following his client entering a not-guilty plea.

“He was mainly a danger to himself, not a danger to others,” he added. 

As we reported on Monday, family and friends indicate that as a teenager, the individual suffered significant head injuries in an automobile accident, to the point where he nearly did not survive.

He has struggled to complete college and live a normal life.

They believe that, while he was suicidal, the idea that he was making terrorists threats was overblown and this was simply an overreaction.

“This young man belongs in the hospital, not in jail,” according to one person familiar with Mr. Benson’s situation.

However, Davis police believe that without fast action on their part, we could have been looking at a tragic situation.

They say that Mr. Benson had several hundred rounds of ammunition, both on his person and in his truck.

“It was a military style rifle,” Lt. Doroshov told News 10. “We don’t want to speculate on what his motive was. But it was potentially explosive based on the weaponry involved, the ammunition that was there, and its close proximity to downtown Davis.”

“It’s amazing nobody was dead,” Lt. Doroshov said. “Everybody walked away with their life, including Mr. Benson himself.”

Defense Attorney Sabbadini had, at the time of the arraignment, asked that Mr. Benson be locked in a mental facility with evaluation at that time, rather than a jail.  However, on Friday at the bail hearing he suggested that there is another possible way to proceed.

He told Judge Fall that the facilities need to make their own determination as to what treatment Mr. Benson needs.  They also prefer for him to come in on his own rather than under a judge’s order.

The next hearing will be March 3 in Department 2.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 thoughts on “Judge Fall Reduces Bail in Davis Gun Incident”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    Seems like the system worked just as it is supposed to. My hope is this young man gets the assistance he needs. My heart goes out to him, and his family who had the courage to turn him in to police. I suspect bc of the family’s brave actions, and that of the Davis PD, a tragedy was averted. Everyone is alive and well, including the young man himself – the best possible outcome. Would that it always turned out so well…

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I would say everyone involved was lucky this didn’t turn into a disaster. The breakdown though occurred before this even became a police/ law enforcement matter. It happened when we did not have adequate mental health services to avoid problems like this before they arise.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “I would say everyone involved was lucky this didn’t turn into a disaster. The breakdown though occurred before this even became a police/ law enforcement matter. It happened when we did not have adequate mental health services to avoid problems like this before they arise.”

    Point well taken. And that is the reason why the whole Giffords debacle in Arizona was so shameful. The Democrats at the national level jumped the gun, and tried to frame the GOP for harmful political speech as the reason the defendant attacked Giffords, when a lack in mental health services was probably more of a factor in the shooting. Jeff Boone wrote a nice Letter to the Editor on the subject in the Davis Enterprise, and a follow-up Letter to the Editor in response, to a response to his first letter.

  4. roger bockrath

    So they have Mr. Benson on resisting arrest, possession of a loaded weapon in a vehicle, and apparently some comment he made that was perceived as a terrorist threat. According to the DPD report, the weapons were discovered only after Mr. Benson was detained as possibly suicidal. Most likely his “military type” weapon was a mini 14 or some similar semi-automatic rifle.

    It would be interesting to learn what the status is for his possession of the ranch rifle and the shotgun.Was he in possession of five round clips or 30 round clips? How many? Were they legally registered guns? Is Mr. Benson on the State’s list of individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms? If he had legally purchased the firearms, and was on the prohibited list (as mentally defective), why had his firearms not been previously confiscated by authorities?

    It rather sounds like Mr. Benson’s previous head injuries may have resulted in organic brain damage,( many lost brain cells) which often manifests itself in outbursts and lack of impulse control. If Mr. Benson had displayed such a history, it would be appropriate for authorities to confiscate his hunting weapons, before he got stopped, and they were found loaded in the cab of his truck.

    We have many, many, many laws in California that restrict and control the use and possession of fire arms-so many so that the vast majority are never enforced. It seems clear, from the number of tragedies initiated by mentally ill citizens, that we need to pay closer attention to potentially violent mental health cases and use the fire arms control tools that we already have to prevent tragedies.

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