LOMPOC — A 32-year-old corrections officer raised in Yucca Valley was shot to death in a hotel room here Thursday, March 8. A fellow prison guard is accused of his murder.
Gary Michael Bent, a lieutenant at the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex, had just finished a training session at Lompoc’s federal prison. He and several other officers were staying at the city’s Embassy Suites hotel, and were spending time together the night of the shooting.
“It was the last night that they were all going to be in town,” Sgt. Chuck Strange, spokesman for the Lompoc Police Department, said Tuesday, March 13.
Police received word that a shooting had taken place in a first-floor hotel room about 10:13 p.m., Strange wrote in a news release. After knocking at the room’s front door and getting no response, they entered and found Bent’s body. He appeared to have been shot once in the back of the neck.
Investigators arrested 33-year-old Timothy Sean McNally of Lompoc Friday, March 9, on suspicion of homicide. He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.
Strange said police have not identified a motive for the shooting. “Obviously, the two of them knew each other, but (investigators) don’t know the extent of their relationship,” he said. “We’re still trying to get handle on that by talking to friends and relatives.”
Bent is survived by a number of family members in Yucca Valley, including two sons, ages 13 and 2 1/2, and two daughters, ages 9 and 5.
“He was a good Christian family man,” Bobbie Bent, his wife of 10 years, said.
He was raised by his grandparents, Jack and Sharon Pope, who still live in Yucca Valley. His grandfather called Bent an upstanding young man dedicated to his job. Pope can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt his grandson.
“Nobody knows why. He was loved. There’s no reason,” Pope said Tuesday via telephone. “As a matter of fact, the warden and chaplain from the prison visited me after it happened and told me how loved and respected he was.”
According to his grandfather, Bent was the youngest person to achieve the rank of lieutenant in the federal prisons. He served on a special weapons and tactics team and was climbing the ladder to captain.
“He loved his job; he took pride in his work,” Bobbie Bent said.
Brother to eight, Bent lost his mother in November last year, when Deborah Pope Gerdes was hit by three cars while crossing Twentynine Palms Highway in Yucca Valley.
He was a devoted father and sibling who called all his brothers, even his older ones, his “little brothers,” because he was the biggest.
“He was a happy, loving guy. He had the biggest heart ever,” Bobbie Bent said. “He would do anything for anybody.”
Bent had been in Lompoc for six weeks for his annual training. “Thursday was his last day, and he was supposed to come home the next day,” Pope said. “He was really looking forward to coming home.”