It is a surreal if tragic moment captured in a still-frame: Two men reaching their arms out, each pointing a weapon at the other, and each firing at roughly the same moment from a few feet away.
One is a 27-year-old security guard pulling the trigger of a Taser. The other is a black-clad armed robber pulling the trigger of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol. Only one would leave the cashier’s cage of Capital Casino alive.
A little over a year after surveillance cameras first captured that violent encounter, a Sacramento jury listened to the full story of what had happened inside the city’s best-known cardroom.
Shots outside, a frantic chase
It was 6:11 in the morning on August 22, 2022 when Sacramento police officer James Summey got a call for a robbery-in-progress along North 16th Street. He pulled up to see several people running from Capital Casino and the company’s graveyard manager Richard Cook pointing eastbound on Blaser Street.
Summey recognized a pistol shot echoing through the air. “Alpha 31, I heard a gunshot,” the officer said into his radio, before calling out, “Where is he?”
Cook, who thought the bullet was fired at him, kept urging Summey towards a narrow, three-lined road with a smattering of houses.
Summey took his patrol car that direction. He would later testify that when he hit North 18th Street, he spotted a man in a dark outfit with a blue beanie over his face. The assailant was trying to bolt away from him. Summey jumped out. “He’s running westbound,” he radioed in.
The dispatch logs captured Summey’s voice as he chased the man. “Let me see your hands, now,” the officer ordered. “He’s got a gun in his hand.”
Seconds later, the dispatcher heard, “He threw the gun. Alpha 31 – he threw the gun. He’s on the ground. He looks injured.”
Summey and his backup surrounded the 6-foot, 250-pound suspect on a levee near the back fence of Blue Diamond Growers. The man turned out to be 36-year-old Dawan Pecot. Summey noticed that a Taser prong had hit the robber between his chest and his stomach.
Meanwhile, Cook had gone back inside Capital Casino to discover a security guard named Sean Bernal laying on the ground with a bullet wound to his neck.
“We’ve got an off—officer who got hit,” Cook told a 911 operator. “He’s barely breathing.”
“Okay, where is he hit on his person?” the dispatcher asked.
“He’s in –he’s inside: I’m on him,” Cook replied. “He – he’s barely breathing …. Sean, stay with me … Stay with me Sean.”
Mapping the scene
Megan Bolla, a police forensic investigator, arrived at Capital Casino around 8 a.m. She was there to process a homicide. That included taking photographs of Bernal’s body. Examining the scene, Bolla found a fired cartridge casing from a Smith & Wesson.
“That was located in the cashier’s office along the east wall of the cardroom,” she would later say on the stand.
Bolla also found some yellow blast doors that had flown off of a Taser when it was fired. They were in the same area as the shell casing.
Outside, there was a white Lexus parked on Basler Street in front of an old brick house. It had been positioned to face the levee. Police could see a black strap jutting from the back of the car– the handle to a duffle bag the trunk had been slammed over.
Near it, dollar bills were blowing around in the wind.
Surveying the scene, Bolla found another fired cartridge casing from a Smith & Wesson, this one “near the south gutter in front of 1612 Basler Street,” as she would eventually testify.
The Lexus was towed to the city’s impound. After a warrant was obtained, investigators opened its truck to find a black bag stuffed with wads of bills, along with a cashier’s drawer filled with twenties and some change. They also located Taser wiring across the floor of the trunk.
It was only after reviewing videos from Capital Casino that police found the image of Bernal and Pecot firing at each other. In the frame, a blue lightning-like arch can be seen cracking at the tip of the guard’s Taser.
The man who came from nowhere
Police homicide detective Derick Cannedy – a 16-year veteran of the force – was walking the casino’s crime scene by 7:45 a.m. One of the main witnesses he’d soon be interviewing was the graveyard supervisor Richard Cook. The detective first explained the chaotic robbery saga while testifying at Pecot’s preliminary hearing. On that day, Cannedy explained it had all started when Cook was sitting at Table 6 on the cardroom floor and noticed Bernal sternly escorting someone out of the casino. Cook realized the guard had his Taser out. He also heard Bernal say to the man in dark clothes, “keep walking.” The two made their way to the exit door. Cook saw them go outside, heading towards the parking lot across from Crest Carpet and Capital Sheet Metal. Cook started tracking them.
“Shortly after, he stated he heard Sean [Bernal] yell out about a gun,” Cannedy said from the stand. “and then he saw him running away, or backing away, from the area.”
As Bernal got some distance, Cook spotted the hooded figure coming back towards the casino. At that point, he could see clearly that the man had a pistol. Cook yelled “gun!” as he tried to warn patrons and employees to get out. The detective said that Cook then headed into the cashier’s cage, one of the building’s highly secure rooms. Before long, he heard an unexpected noise.
“Once he was back inside the cashier’s case, he stated he heard the sound of someone entering the code for the initial door into the hallway,” Cannedy testified. “He thought that it was an employee punching in the code, so he opened up the door to see who was coming in.”
“And what happened next?” Deputy District Attorney Kristen Andersen asked.
“As soon as he opened the door, he saw the suspect coming through the outer door,” the detective went on, “and he tried to shut the cashier’s cage door; but was unable to fully shut it before the suspect forced his way through.”
Pecot was standing a few feet away from Cook, pointing his gun with an extended clip at him.
Cannedy recounted that Cook had managed push his way past the gunman and rush for cover in another room. He never saw Bernal re-appear to confront the assailant, he only heard Pecot rummaging through the cashier’s cage. When Cook realized the robber was making an escape, he cautiously followed from a distance. That’s when he saw Pecot throw the bag of money inside the trunk of the Lexus, and then briefly try to hide with it in the car’s trunk. At that point, police were en route. Cook saw Pecot get out of the trunk and suddenly fire the gun – he thought in his direction. Pecot then made a dash for the semi-forested levee that was about 350 feet away from his car. Within a few minutes, he was on the ground in handcuffs.
Bernal’s family have described him as an industrious young man who loved being a father and always looked out for people around him.
A fully jury trial for Pecot was held in mid-November. He was ultimately found guilty of first-degree murder with the special allegation of using firearm in the commission of a crime in a manner that caused death. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.