Accused Kmart Security Guard Shooter To Stand Trial

An ex-convict accused of fatally shooting a sailor who was moonlighting as a Kmart loss prevention officer in Ramona must stand trial on murder, attempted murder, robbery, and other charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Andrew Nicholas Griffith, 28, is charged with the July 21 murder of 34-year-old Petty Officer 1st Class David C. Busby, a married father of a 17-month-old son.

The murder charge against Griffith includes special-circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and burglary that make him eligible for the death penalty.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide later whether to pursue Griffith's execution should he be convicted.

After a half-day preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Allan Preckel ruled there was enough evidence presented for Griffith to stand trial. The judge ordered the defendant to return to court Oct. 25 for arraignment.

Griffith was able to squeeze off three shots as Busby and another guard tried to subdue him, witnesses testified during the hearing at the East County Courthouse.

Victor Hensley, a shopper who was in the Kmart parking lot, said he was "surprised" at the strength shown by the defendant during the struggle.

Hensley and a store clerk, William Keefer, testified that they had to struggle to pry the defendant's fingers -- Griffith has an average build -- off a 9 mm handgun.

Keefer said he saw the defendant walk out a door of the store's garden department while carrying a bag that set off an alarm.

Busby followed the defendant, Keefer said.

Busby and Fred Tili, the store's loss prevention manager, had Griffith down, but the defendant managed to rise up off the ground, the witness said.

After he heard shots, Keefer said he saw "David Busby still holding on to the individual and sinking to the ground."

The other guard struggling with Griffith asked for help, and Keefer said he got on top of the defendant and reached for the gun, which was under him and rolled up in his T-shirt.

"He was gripping the gun with all his strength," Keefer said. "It seemed as though his finger was clamped to the trigger. To be honest, I'm surprised it didn't go off again."

Debra Fraser, a former supervising nurse for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, testified that she ran up to the 34-year-old Busby and told him to "stay with me," but the Julian resident quickly died.

The defendant was convicted in 2004 of possession of an assault weapon in San Bernardino County.

Sheriff's Deputy Jose Baltz testified that he drove the defendant to the Ramona substation, and was walking him inside when he tried to escape.

"He rotated his body counterclockwise, which broke my grip I had on his arm," Baltz said.

The deputy said Griffith ran up onto the roof of a car that was parked near a 6-foot picket fence but before he could jump over, he slipped back down onto the pavement.

Sheriff's Detective William Altenhof testified that three 9 mm casings were found at the scene, but the only slug came from the victim's body.

The detective said 50 rounds of ammunition were found in a CD case in the defendant's truck, which was parked nearby. A sword was also found in the truck.

Altenhof said he also found a receipt for a bank withdrawal from four days earlier for $200, which left a balance of $8 in the defendant's account.

The detective said an empty box of 9 mm bullets and a full box of .45-caliber bullets were found in the defendant's home.

Altenhof said a store surveillance photo shows the defendant in various places in the Kmart. Upon entering the store, the detective said you can see an "outline of a handgun in his waistband," referring to Griffith.

The detective said Griffith was carrying a white Kmart bag with $86.85 worth of merchandise when he left the store.

Inside the bag was a gun cleaning kit, gun cleaning patches, gun oil, sandpaper, water-proof matches, DVDs including "Kill With Intrigue" and spiritual Kung Fu, and a hula doll for a car dashboard.

Busby served on the USS Mobile Bay and was described by fellow sailors as a great instructor.