Former Calif. CO sentenced to 9 years for attempted murder

Sean Timothy O'Brien, who was fired by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in 2013 after allegedly kicking a sleeping inmate, pleaded guilty to attempted murder

By Jackson Guilfoil
Times-Standard, Eureka, Calif.

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — On Thursday, a former Humboldt County correctional officer was sentenced to nine years in prison for shooting another man in a McKinleyville bar.

Sean Timothy O'Brien — who was fired by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in 2013 after allegedly kicking a sleeping inmate — pleaded guilty to attempted murder after shooting another man twice, hitting him in the hand and bicep at the Central Station sports bar in McKinleyville on Sept. 27, 2021. O'Brien was sentenced to the low term of five years for the attempted murder, and the middle term of four years for using a gun.

No one in the sentencing hearing, including O'Brien, knew what motivated the shooting. O'Brien apologized for the crime, but told Judge Kelly Neel that he did not remember it — or the entire day of the incident — which his attorney, Kathleen Bryson, said was because of severe alcohol abuse to the point where he has a medical condition in his liver affecting his brain.

"What's horribly confounding is that there's seemingly no explanation for what happened that day," Neel said.

O'Brien was subdued by other patrons of the bar during the shooting, and at one point, he was struck by a shot from his own gun as someone attempted to wrestle it away from him.

Bryson noted O'Brien lacked any criminal history, and asked Neel to consider his medical conditions and struggles with alcohol when making her ruling. Addressing the court, Bryson said her client may not survive a prison sentence due to his serious medical issues.

"This is most likely a death sentence for my client," Bryson said.

Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees told the court the injuries from the shooting left the victim, Ethan Jacobs, with significant medical issues and a loss of dexterity requiring lifelong physical therapy.

Rees pushed back on the idea that a mixture of alcohol and the presence of a firearm was to blame for the situation, noting that many people struggling with alcohol addiction do not attempt to fatally shoot others.

"There's no justification, it's just violence for violence's sake," Rees said.

O'Brien was also ordered to pay $350,000 in restitution fines to the victim, though Bryson told the court that she has no idea how he is going to eventually be able to pay that money.

Neel sentenced O'Brien to the lower term for attempted murder due to his lack of criminal history, but she noted his military and police service make the crime more egregious, as he had the training to know the seriousness of gunshot wounds.

O'Brien has been at the Humboldt County jail since Oct. 14, 2021, and because he committed a violent crime, he will receive 15% credit for his days of time served.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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