Pubdate: Mon, 25 Aug 2003
Source: Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 The Tribune
Author: Michaela Baltasar, The Tribune


Jay Vestal Memorialized By Friends Calling For Justice To Be Done

ATASCADERO - Mourners at Sunday's funeral and motorcycle procession for Jay 
Anthony Vestal expressed sorrow, anger and frustration -- and a need for 
political action -- at the death of the North County man during his arrest 
Aug. 18.

Those who spoke at the hour-long service at Atascadero's Chapel of the 
Roses urged the public to write to members of Congress, attend county Board 
of Supervisors meetings and sign a petition requesting the removal of the 
county sheriff's deputies involved in the arrest.

About 200 people attended the funeral, filling aisles and spilling into the 
chapel parking lot.

Paso Robles resident Dick Hudson, who led the service, told mourners to 
remain peaceful, yet strong, in their pursuit of justice.

"Don't forget Jay," said Hudson, a close friend of Vestal's who recalled 
the man's easy laughter and charm.

"As brutal as this may sound, don't forget the bruises you see on him 
today," Hudson added at the open-casket funeral. "It's time to wake up, but 
let our gentleness be evident to all ... Let's (go to) war with wisdom."

Vestal, 37, died in front of a Templeton mobile home that he shared with 
Sandra Barce, his girlfriend's mother.

Sheriff's deputies took him into custody on a misdemeanor warrant for 
failing three times to appear in court after a marijuana possession arrest.

Witnesses said Vestal screamed that he could not breathe as four deputies 
piled on top of him.

They said Vestal was not resisting, but a Sheriff's Department official 
said he would not submit to handcuffing.

Preliminary results from an autopsy released Tuesday showed Vestal likely 
died from restraint asphyxia, which describes a body being placed in a 
position that interferes with breathing.

Tests by an independent laboratory in the San Joaquin Valley detected 
cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in Vestal's system.

Six deputies directly involved in Vestal's arrest have been placed on paid 
administrative leave while various reviews take place.

The Sheriff's Department is continuing its investigation, and Sheriff Pat 
Hedges has asked the FBI to review the case. The county District Attorney's 
Office is also carrying out a criminal investigation.

Many mourners wore black armbands embroidered with the words "In Memory."

Men and women wept out loud, hugging one another and shaking their heads as 
they stood over the open casket at the front of the room.

Some even bent to kiss Vestal good-bye.

"He was like a son to me," said Buck Hyde, a Santa Margarita man and 
president of the Moloch Central Coast motorcycle club, of which Vestal was 
a member.

"I swear justice will be served," Hyde added. "We have to make sure this 
type of brutality doesn't happen again."

After the service, a motorcade escorted Vestal's hearse, casket and body 
inside, to Wilson's restaurant and bowling alley in Paso Robles, where a 
fund-raiser was held for his family.

The hearse was at Wilson's parking lot for a time, then the casket and body 
were returned to the mortuary.

Vestal's burial is pending another autopsy at his family's request.

The motorcade north to Paso Robles got off Highway 101 in Templeton, where 
mourners on motorcycles and in cars followed Vestal's hearse as it passed 
the Sheriff's Department substation.

They rode slowly past the building, revving engines and honking horns, 
raising arms and making offensive gestures in a show of support for Vestal 
and anger toward the Sheriff's Department.

"I don't hate cops -- I just hate injustice," said Lee Rauch, a Templeton 
resident who watched Vestal's arrest and death. "I know what I saw, and 
I'll scream it to my death."
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