Navy vet shot by deputy in own backyard—family seeks answers

Ron Recinto
The Lookout

The brother of a Navy veteran shot by a deputy in her own backyard wants the sheriff's department to admit its mistake and take responsibility for the incident.

Jennifer Orey, 36, was shot Sunday in a surprise encounter with two sheriff's deputies who were searching for a man reportedly in the area wearing a ski mask, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Orey was in her pajamas in her yard around 10:30 p.m. because she heard noises and thought it was her ex-husband, the newspaper reports.

Orey and Deputy Luke Berhalter came in contact and the officer's firearm discharged at point-blank range, her brother James Morgan told local Fox 5  News.

"He fired without warning, saying freeze, or anything. Then just as she saw the black smoke coming out the barrel she turned her body," Morgan said. "The bullet went through her chest and her left nipple, into her shoulder and out her pinkie."

The deputy reportedly told her, "I'm sorry, you startled me," Morgan told the television station.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore told local 10News the deputies thought Orey's open gate looked suspicious, so they entered the backyard. When deputies ran into the woman, Berhalter had a "spontaneous reaction."

Berhalter, a San Diego County deputy for 21 months after seven years with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, has been placed on leave. The case has been handed over to the local prosecuting attorney for review.

Orey, whose family told the newspaper she was the first woman in the Navy to earn her wings of gold as a search and rescue swimmer, was released from hospital.

But still her brother wants answers.

"I feel they are trying to cover up their mistakes," Morgan told Fox 5 News. "They know the truth. They just don't want to admit it. All we want is for them to own up to their mistake and be responsible just like anybody else."