Tuesday, May 9, 2006 • Berridge gets 33 years to life in prison for attempting to murder deputy

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, May 9, 2006 edition of the Lassen County Times.

The Susanville man convicted of attempting to murder a Lassen County sheriff’s deputy is now serving 33 years to life in prison.

Sentenced on Tuesday, May 2, and reportedly laughing as he walked out of the court room, Andrew M. Berridge, 28, was sent to High Desert State Prison. The sentencing report prepared by the Lassen County probation department confirmed Berridge, who has 666 tattooed across the back of his head, stated his religion of choice is Satanism.

“Defendant stated he has been worshiping Satan his entire life,” the report said.

District Attorney Bob Burns said Berridge must serve 27 years to life in prison “before he becomes even eligible for his first parole hearing.” Burns said Berridge had one previous strike under California’s three-strikes sentencing law and it doubled to 14 years the minimum term before eligibility for parole he received for the attempted murder of Deputy Ken McCormick.

The jury of seven women and five men convicted him in February. They found Berridge pointed a sawed-off shotgun at McCormick’s face on April 28 and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t go off. Berridge also admitted illegal possession of the shotgun.

The jury found Berridge guilty of two special findings, that he personally used a firearm and McCormick, who has 17 years of law enforcement experience, was a peace officer in the performance of his duty. They also found Berridge guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm and illegally possessing a sawed-off shotgun, which added 13 more years to the minimum term he must serve before becoming eligible for parole.

Ineligible for probation by law, Berridge’s “increasing criminality and clear danger to society,” prevented Judge Stephen Bradbury from granting probation “even if he were eligible,” according to Bradbury’s tentative sentencing decision.

Admitting he was still high and his judgement was impaired when the incident occurred, Berridge testified at his trial that he smoked “just a bowl full” of crystal methamphetamine, known as crank, about eight hours before McCormick contacted him.

The deputy pulled up behind Berridge in the Willard Hill parking area off Highway 36 west of Susanville at 9 p.m. on April 28, according to the testimony. Berridge, a parolee at large, was sitting in his red 1987 Nissan Stanza smoking a cigarette, according to repeated testimony at the two-day trial.

During the contact, Berridge pulled a shotgun and attempted to shoot the deputy. The single-barrel, 12-gauge, sawed-off shotgun allegedly malfunctioned. McCormick testified the barrel was two feet away from his face.

Berridge claimed he was trying to take the gun to Chester to sell it in order to get enough money to marry his fiancée. Berridge said he knew it was illegal to possess a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 16 inches and admitted he was guilty of that charge.

Berridge also testified he knew he was guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, because he was convicted in Lassen County Superior Court in June 1999 of lewd acts with a child less than 14 years old. Berridge said he was 19 years old at the time and admitted having sex with his underage girlfriend. He later violated his probation, went to prison and was released two months to the day before the April 28 incident.

Lassen and Plumas county officers took him into custody at a Chester apartment complex the next day without incident about two hours after they discovered his location.

The Lassen County Search and Rescue team later helped the sheriff’s department recover Berridge’s Nissan just east of the Westwood Cemetery. They found the shotgun under a fuel tank at the Westwood Y.

The court informed Berridge he has the right to appeal the sentence and must do so by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of the court within 60 days of sentencing. If Berridge files an appeal, the court of appeal will appoint counsel to represent him.