PALM SPRINGS – Blamed for the high speed chase that last month caused the death of a police officer, a Palm Springs man pleaded not guilty Friday to second degree murder.
Durjan Germaine Gray, 34, a parolee, was charged in the March 18 death of Jermaine Gibson, 29, a Cathedral City police officer. Gibson was pursuing a stolen Ford Mustang that was being driven by the suspect, according to the charges.
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Anthony Orlando filed a special allegation against Gray, charging him with the death of a police officer. A murder conviction, along with confirmation of the special allegation, could send Gray to a prison term of 25 years to life.
“This is an extremely important case for this community,” Orlando said. “We have a duty to pursue this case because this man led a pursuit and a man lost his life for it. A peace officer was killed.”
Following a brief courtroom appearance, Orlando appeared emotional in talking to the media. “This case is extremely personal and we’ll pursue it as impartially as we can, he told reporters. “In my career, there’s been no bigger case.”
Gibson, a three-year veteran who belonged to departments in Rialto, Desert Hot Springs and eventually Cathedral City, was following the stolen Mustang from north of Cathedral City to Palm Springs when he lost control and slammed into a palm tree, police officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The chase, which included two other Cathedral City police units, took a course along a curvy portion of Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, north of Mesquite Avenue.
The suspect crashed his car about a half-mile from where Gibson died. The stolen Mustang burst into flames upon hitting a concrete sign and a palm tree. Gray and a passenger, 46-year-old Dexter Coleman, were hospitalized with major injuries. Police determined that Coleman was a victim and brought no charges against him.
Police said Gray was under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana.
Gray had had at least seven other criminal cases against him, including a 2006 vehicle theft conviction for which he was still on parole at the time of the March 18 incident.
After Gray’s arraignment Friday in Riverside Superior Court, the judge set a scheduling date of May 27 for a felony settlement conference and a two-day preliminary hearing to start June 1. Gray remains in custody at the Indio Jail.
Gibson, who received a Purple Heart while in the armed forces, served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He married last year, moving his family to Beaumont. His son, Jermaine Jr., was only four weeks old when he was killed.