Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Dec. 13
La Jolla shooting spree recalls Fletcher family murder tragedy
Borrego ranch killings by drunken scion two decades ago marked wealthy San Diego bankers and landholders as star-crossed
Yesterday's shooting spree in La Jolla, which reportedly wounded Mission Beach real estate man Ron Fletcher and another victim, is one more tragic twist for the powerful Fletcher family dynasty, the wealthy clan that once ruled San Diego county by means of riches, politics, and real estate, only to witness pain and woe on a Kennedyesque scale.
According to a published account of yesterday's melee, Fletcher overpowered suspect Hans A. Petersen, the estranged husband of Fletcher's sister Bonnie, by striking him in the head with the butt of a .45-caliber pistol.
Fletcher was reportedly hospitalized in stable condition. UC San Diego cancer biologist Steven Dowdy, another shooting victim, was also expected to survive.
Dowdy had been in a business deal with Petersen, described as a biotech executive, according to reports.
In a tragic coincidence, it has been just over twenty years since the Fletcher family's most fateful collision with shooting infamy, on August 31, 1993.
Coronado author Laura McNeal followed the chilling story for the Reader, and has written a new e-book about the family's depths of madness and despair, "The Last Meeting of the Dove Club: A Pioneer Family's Tragedy."
There's no story more perversely fascinating than the fall of great wealth, and that’s the story the shootings that night could tell: the Fletcher family, great and powerful from one end of San Diego County to the other, from the last century to the present, had produced a man known principally for two things: drinking and shooting.
Ed Fletcher III—“scion of a the Fletcher dynasty,” the papers liked to call him--had just shot two innocent, ordinary people, friends who hadn’t wanted to let him down, who hadn’t wanted to leave him alone to face what, in spite of every opportunity in the world, he had become.
What happened? When did the long rise become the beginning of a long fall?
In Borrego Springs, California, the annual meeting of the dove club was of purely local interest before and after 1993. That was the year the minutes were significant to anyone beyond a small group of hunters and friends.
On that night, three members of a prominent San Diego family were present, as usual: Ed Fletcher III, his son Eric, and Ed’s uncle Ferdinand Fletcher. Ed Fletcher III would leave the meeting and drive home with a blood alcohol level near .33.
He would find in his kitchen the empty bottles of gin and vodka and wonder who had poured his liquor down the drain. He would go to the room where he kept his guns, select one, and return to the kitchen, where his friends were waiting for the dinner they'd been invited to enjoy.
Out on the desert, where the evening temperature was still 98 degrees, his son Eric was walking off his anger at his father’s refusal to stop drinking. He was watching the mourning doves rise and fall in the night sky. He was close enough to his parents’ house that he heard not only the shots but a woman’s scream.
(Ex-Republican Assemblyman and current Democratic San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher is not related to the famous Fletchers. The story of his own childhood difficulties is here.)
More like this:
- Not all Fletcher's campaign support is from Irwin — Nov. 11, 2013
- Revealed: Nathan Fletcher's secret collegiate history! — Nov. 5, 2013
- Windansea, La Jolla — Aug. 23, 2007
- Bail Bait — Jan. 22, 1998
- Anyone But Cunanan — July 31, 1997