[UPDATED:] Ira Gabor Essoe, OC Homicide No. 58: Deputy Was Shot in 1980, Succumbs to Injuries in 2010

Update, November 19, 12:35 p.m.: Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has issued a statement about the charges filed against two men Thursday for the murder of Sgt. Ira Gabor Essoe, Jr. in 1980.

"The criminal justice system will not let the passage of time protect the men who brutally shot and killed Sergeant Ira Essoe," Hutchens says. ". . . He dedicated his life to protecting the public and now we seek justice for his family."

The complete statement follows:


Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens praised the investigators and prosecutors whose investigative efforts culminated in the filing of charges against two men for the murder of Sergeant Ira Essoe.

"Building a case on a shooting that occurred more than three decades ago is no small achievement.

It required hard work and professional dedication," she said.

"The criminal justice system will not let the passage of time protect the men who brutally shot and killed Sergeant Ira Essoe. Sergeant Essoe was a true hero and his death was a loss not only to his family and the Orange County Sheriff's Department but to the public. He dedicated his life to protecting the public and now we seek justice for his family."

"Sergeant Essoe, like all of those who died in the line of duty as members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, will forever live in our hearts. We all offer our support to his family, his children and his widow."

Sergeant Essoe was shot on November 6, 1980 while attempting to rescue his partner from three armed men who were in the act of stealing a car. Sergeant Essoe was paralyzed and never fully recovered. His wife Ramona cared for him for 29 ½ years as his health deteriorated due to the gunshot wounds. His death on February 4, 2010 was determined to be a homicide, a death in the line of duty.

Original Post, November 19, 11:34 a.m.: Orange County Sheriff's deputy Ira Gabor Essoe and a partner were in plain clothes in an Orange mall's parking lot when they confronted by a man who ordered them to drop their weapons. As Essoe complied, he was shot twice in the back, paralyzing him for life. That was in 1980, when Essoe was 40. After dealing with severe medical complications, including the amputation of both legs, over the next 30 years, he died in February of a blood disease caused by bed sores.

On Thursday, the men who'd been convicted, imprisoned and paroled a decade ago for trying to kill the deputy were arrested and charged with what authorities characterize as Essoe's 2010 murder. 

Photos by John Gilhooley/OC Weekly
Former Sheriff Brad Gates delivers the eulogy at February's memorial service for Ira Essoe.
"Under the law, there is no statute of limitations on murder if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act resulted in a death," explains the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) statement on the Orange Police Department arrests of David Michael Knick, 54, of Yucca Valley, and Robert Duston Strong, 55, of Riverside.

Each has been charged with one felony count each of murder and were being held on $1 million bail apiece leading into an arraignment hearing this morning in Santa Ana. 

If convicted, each could get up to 25 years to life in state prison

Essoe was remembered at a hero's memorial service in february at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. His eulogy was delivered by Brad Gates, who was sheriff at the time of the shooting.

Orange County's current Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, had previously presented the deputy's widow, Ramona Essoe, with the department's Purple Heart at the annual Medal of Valor ceremony.

Ira Essoe was the ninth OCSD deputy to die in the line of duty.

The OCDA statement on the charges against Knick and Strong and the circumstances of the case follows after the jump . . .

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