Paso Robles man shot 10 times during alleged late-night argument

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comFebruary 11, 2014 

John Steven Danner, 23, of Paso Robles was arrested Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, on suspicion of murder. Original story »

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described one of the guns that John Steven Danner reportedly took from a safe in his room; it was a .45-caliber Glock model 21.

A Paso Robles man charged with murder shot his mother’s boyfriend at least 10 times after an argument over candles got out of hand, according to court records filed by the Sheriff's Office.

The District Attorney’s Office filed charges Tuesday against John Steven Danner, 23, who is incarcerated at the county jail for the Feb. 7 shooting of Billy Don Law, 47.

According to a case synopsis prepared by the county Sheriff’s Office, Danner and Law had been in a fight two weeks earlier. During that altercation, Law knocked out one of Danner’s front teeth. Law later suffered a staph infection in his right hand because of the fight and had to be hospitalized.

On Feb. 7, according to the synopsis, the following occurred: When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the residence on Klau Mine Road they found Law naked, unarmed and deceased, having suffered bullet wounds to the head and body.

A second victim, Christine Ruda — Danner’s mother and Law’s girlfriend — had been shot in the left arm.

Ruda told a detective that she and Law were lying in bed in the early morning hours when Law rose to use the restroom and thought he saw a candle burning in Danner’s bedroom. While the house did not have electricity, Law had told Danner several times not to burn candles in his room.

Danner was actually burning trash and wood in the backyard with his friend, Robert Little, who also lived at the residence. Law then argued with Ruda over what he believed was her son’s carelessness with burning candles in his room at night.

Ruda initially said Law threatened to kill her and her son, though she later recanted, saying he had not threatened anyone. Danner also said he did not hear Law threaten to kill himself or his mother. But at some point, he walked by their bedroom with an aluminum bat and told them to “knock it off.”

Ruda told Danner why the two were arguing, then resumed the confrontation with Law. Danner then retrieved two handguns from a safe in his room — a .45-caliber Glock model 21 and a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver.

Danner said he brandished the guns, hoping to scare Law so he would stop arguing with his mother. Standing outside his mother’s bedroom, Danner threatened, “You better knock it off or I’ll (expletive) shoot you!”

Law, seemingly unafraid, exited the room, responding, “Oh, yeah?” As Law approached, Danner began walking backward, then fired as Law walked toward him. Little, Danner’s friend, said he then saw Danner stand over Law and fire two or three more times as the victim was lying motionless on his back.

During the shooting, Ruda was accidentally shot in the bicep. After the shooting, Danner and Little drove her to Twin Cities Community Hospital.

Danner initially told a detective he was scared because he thought Law would disarm him and use the gun to shoot him. Later, he said he was scared when Law exited the room despite the fact that he had a gun.

According to the report, Danner admitted he should not have shot Law during the incident and did not think it was fair to shoot because he was scared.

Neither Danner nor Law have significant criminal records. Danner, who faced enhancements for using a firearm resulting in great bodily injury, will appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for his arraignment Thursday.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service