Morro Bay burglary suspect shot by officer to be psychologically evaluated

Alec Bryan Stephenson
Alec Bryan Stephenson

Criminal proceedings against a 20-year-old burglary suspect shot in the leg by a Morro Bay police officer will be suspended until he is evaluated by a court-appointed psychiatrist, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled this week.

A statement submitted by the officer shortly after the shooting alleges the suspect made nonsensical statements to a person who witnessed the burglary and later began swinging at the officer and his partner with a 4-foot stick.

The officer who pulled the trigger remains on paid administrative leave while the District Attorney’s Office continues its investigation into the incident.

Alec Bryan Stephenson was shot by Officer Dale Cullum about 6:45 a.m. on Oct. 30, after a witness reported a burglary in progress at a secondhand store on the 300 block of Quintana Road and then followed Stephenson, who was on a bicycle, toward the Embarcadero and relayed Stephenson’s location to officers.

Cullum and Officer Maria Lomeli responded to the call and found Stephenson near Coleman Park riding his bicycle toward Morro Rock. When they stopped him, Stephenson allegedly hit Cullum in the head with the stick — what was previously described as a “blunt object” — and Cullum pulled his gun and fired a single shot, hitting Stephenson in the leg, according to the police department’s timeline of events.

Both Stephenson and Cullum were taken by ambulance to separate hospitals. Cullum was released shortly after, and Stephenson remained in the hospital until later that afternoon before being booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail.

Morro Bay police Chief Amy Christey said previously that Stephenson was homeless and known to frequent the city, having been arrested some weeks before the shooting on suspicion of burglarizing a vehicle. She said officers had confronted him about six hours before the shooting after a report of suspicious activity near the Harbor Department building on the Embarcadero.

On Nov. 2, prosecutors filed three felonies against Stephenson, including assault on a police officer with a weapon likely to cause great bodily injury, second-degree commercial burglary and battery on a police officer resulting in injury with a special enhancement using a deadly weapon.

He was appointed a public defender on Nov. 3 and pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

About two hours after the shooting, Cullum completed an officer declaration of the incident, saying that Stephenson struck him in the head with a 4-foot stick.

Cullum wrote that a person in the area of the secondhand store called 911 at 6:43 a.m. to report they heard glass breaking and saw a man, whom the witness later identified as Stephenson, at the store. The report does not state whether the witness saw Stephenson inside the store, but Cullum wrote that the witness confronted Stephenson, who “made a bizarre comment to the witness that he was reclaiming some of God’s property and talking nonsense.”

The statement says the witness saw Stephenson carrying property from the store and that Stephenson admitted breaking through a front window. The witness reportedly said Stephenson used a fire extinguisher to break the window.

Stephenson then took off on his bike toward the Embarcadero, according to the report, with “a stick in his mouth and also carrying a large 4-foot stick.”

When officers caught up to him in the 100 block of Coleman Drive, Cullum wrote, they tried to place Stephenson under arrest, but he began swinging the larger stick “several times at the head of a Police Officer.”

“The suspect was given several verbal commands to stop, but he continued to attack with the deadly weapon. Officers retreated backwards,” the statement reads. Cullum wrote that he was then struck in the head and “sustained visible injuries.”

“To further prevent further great bodily injury or death, the suspect was shot one time,” he wrote.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy suspended criminal proceedings against Stephenson and ordered psychiatric evaluations by two doctors, whose reports are to be filed by Nov. 25.

In the order, Duffy wrote that the doctors are to be given access to Stephenson’s records from the County Jail, County Mental Health Services and Atascadero State Hospital.

Morro Bay Deputy City Manager Sam Taylor said Friday that Lomeli, who also was put on leave, has since returned to duty.

Taylor said he could not comment on Cullum’s medical condition because of personnel confidentiality.

As of Friday evening, Stephenson remained in custody at County Jail without bail.