San Diego DUI criminal defense lawyers and San Diego Drunk Driving criminal defense attorneys recall the man who leaped from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge with a police dog in his arms.
At his sentencing in a Vista courtroom last week, Cory Byron, 28, unburdened himself:
“On that day, my life had got to the point where I thought it was better to end my life,” Byron said. “I found myself sitting in a gas station staring at Interstate 5 and thinking whether to go south and jump off the bridge or go home. I decided to go home. On (state Route) 76, driving toward Fallbrook, the police officer signaled for me to pull over. It was a sign to me.”
Off his expensive meds that were prescribed for bipolar disorder, suicidally depressed and drunk, the Vista construction worker drove south on New Year’s Eve 2007 with police in pursuit. He ran red lights. He hit a car, injuring several passengers. He kept driving to the landmark bridge.
Once on the bridge, the next six seconds flashed by: “I got out of my truck. My head was down. I rounded my door as quickly as possible. . . . I ran to the edge of the bridge. The next thing I remember is looking up. I’d blacked out. I’d been hit hard by something. I woke up laying face down on the bridge with the guardrail in front of my face. I reached up. I stepped over it and upon feeling the sensation of free-falling, I said a short prayer, closed my eyes and relaxed.”
Byron then evoked Stryker, the K-9 ghost in the room.
“It was debatable for Officer (Kedrick) Sadler to release the dog,” he said. Byron conceded, however, that the Oceanside police officer didn’t have another option.
“I have found the responsibility for Stryker’s life is ultimately on me,” Byron told Judge Joel Pressman.
“My plan was to run toward the guardrail and dive off. I was going to swan dive, head-first. I’m a sky-diver. I’m used to free-fall. The Lord has showed me that it was Stryker who saved my life. He altered my intended trajectory. I landed on the water flat on my back, which was probably the best way, evenly distributing my weight.”
Byron apologized to – and thanked – Sadler, the same officer who had asked the court to hand Byron the maximum sentence. Doing his job, Deputy District Attorney Paul Myers debunked Byron’s mea culpa.
He attacked Byron’s reference to Sadler’s “debatable decision,” calling it “self-centered” to raise such a question. Myers underscored Byron’s decisions to drink and drive while on probation from a previous DUI, run red lights, leave the scene of a collision, lead police on a high-speed chase and then jump off the bridge with police in pursuit.
“I’m not a physicist,” Myers said, but he speculated that Stryker saved Byron’s life by breaking the water. (Police video shows the two landing in the water well apart.)
The prosecutor rejected Byron’s statement that he didn’t know what had hit him. (Earlier, Byron’s San Diego DUI criminal defense attorney, Anthony Solare, said his client assumed he had been Tasered.)
“He (Byron) wanted to do this,” Myers insisted. “The dog was on him and he went over that railing.”
Toward the end of his remarks, Myers shifted. While opposing probation, he conceded that Byron should not be “singled out,” presumably for the death of Stryker. He had just one prior offense – the DUI. Myers recommended a light to moderate sentence.
Last fall, Myers agreed to reduce a felony animal cruelty charge to a misdemeanor and allow Cory Byron to plead no contest on the charge. Byron quickly agreed to guilty pleas on all other charges.
No matter how rhetorically tough he was in the courtroom, Myers showed heart in this most macabre of crime stories. “This is a very difficult situation,” Pressman said.
He acknowledged receiving letters from Byron’s family and friends.
“They describe an incredibly interesting, dedicated, hard-working family man,” Pressman said. “It is unfortunate you find yourself in this situation. It’s unfortunate that I have to do what I think is best for the community.”
Judge Pressman sentenced him to three years and eight months in state prison. With time served in county jail, Byron could be a free man in about a year.
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