Ruling describes failures of Paso Robles officers during rampage

January 29, 2023

Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus


Paso Robles police officers allegedly failed to do their jobs and confront an armed suspect firing shots at the station, instead electing to stand down for more than three hours, according to a ruling filed on Thursday.

Three people who suffered losses during a 2020 shooting spree filed a motion to name Paso Robles as a plaintiff in a lawsuit, noting that if not for the negligence of officers, the gunman Mason James Lira likely would have been stopped at the police station.

During the shooting rampage, one man was killed, four officers were shot, and a fifth officer was hit by shrapnel. An officer later shot and killed Lira.

After stealing several handguns and an unknown amount of ammunition from attorney Robert Bettencourt’s office in San Luis Obispo, Lira ambushed the Paso Robles Police Department, firing shots at officers and staff, who allegedly hid inside the department.

The plaintiffs also accuse city officials of falsely reporting that Lira’s spree started at 3:07 a.m. on June 10, 2020.

Mason James Lira

At 12:11 a.m. on June 10, 2020, a caller reported Lira shot at a woman in the downtown area, according to plaintiffs. Officers than searched for the shooter, while Lira walked to the police station where he stood outside and brandished a weapon.

Three officers and one dispatcher on duty inside the police department then deliberated on what they should do: go to the roof, turn out the lights, or leave the station. In the end, they decided not to engage Lira and not to leave the station because they “were a little weary” and Lira was “armed with a gun,” according to the ruling.

From inside the station, the officers told officers on patrol to stay away from the department and to contact other agencies for support.

At about 4 a.m., Lira shot and killed 59-year-old James Watson near the train station.

SLO County deputy Nicholas Dreyfus and another deputy went to assist in the manhunt. While the two deputies searched the downtown area, at 4:25 a.m., Lira shot Dreyfus in the face.

Following the shooting, Dreyfus was flown to a trauma center out of the area where he underwent surgery for his injuries.

Nicholas Dreyfus, his wife Tyler Dreyfus, and James Watson’s son Johnny Watson filed a personal injury, loss of consortium and wrongful death lawsuit in June 2022 against Bettencourt for “failing to lock firearms and ammunition in a reasonable, safe and prudent manner.”

The plaintiffs then filed a motion asking the court to allow them to also name the City of Paso Robles as a plaintiff, noting that if not for the negligence of officers, Lira likely would have been stopped at the police station.

“The police officers’ negligent acts and failures to act did not occur during the exercise of any of their discretionary duties because failing to engage a suspect who is on a public shooting spree when that suspect is outnumbered by police and the police officers have superior weapons, communications devices and tactical positioning, is not a basic policy of the police,” according to the lawsuit.

In her tentative ruling, Judge Ginger Garrett announced plans to grant the motion for relief from government claim filing requirements because they were not aware of the facts until investigators finished their report.

However, at the hearing the city’s lawyer argued that the motion as filed was not the appropriate procedural vehicle for the court to make a factual determination. Judge Garrett agreed.

“Plaintiffs do not contend their claims against the city wer untimely,” according to Judge Garrett’s ruling. “Rather, plaintiffs contend their claims against the city are timely for the reasons outlined above. Thus, plaintiff’s motion is arguably moot, because plaintiffs did not actually seek the court to excuse an untimely filing; rather, plaintiffs wish the court to make a factual determination as to whether their claims against the city are timely.”

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It has been my opinion since the Lira situation began at Paso PD , James Watson was shot by an officer not by Lira .There is video of Lira at a Paso gas station mini store buying items after the manhunt had began not using his weapons to steal items . Lira was not in anyway intimidating to the mini store clerk or the customers ….Lira was on a mission to kill LEO’s not the general public . IMO Lira had no experience with the weapons he was using and he was not a person with great marksmanship . I find it difficult to believe that Lira shot Mr. Watson . Unfortunately, I don’t think Mr. Watson was examined by a independent non government payed or influenced medical examiner . Any evidence that could be found was possibly tainted or modified

Who issued the “ruling?” These appear to me to be allegations.