Friday, July 10, 2009 | Lowell Bruce, a deputy sheriff who fatally shot his wife in their Alpine home in 2006, twice failed the county’s psychological evaluations and was rejected for employment by eight other law enforcement agencies, but was ultimately hired by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department anyway.
According to 1993 employment applications, rejection letters from the county of San Diego and other documents contained in a 2007 wrongful death lawsuit filed by his wife’s parents, Bruce was told his history of violence was the reason he failed the exams and would not be hired.
Nonetheless, in 1998, five years after failing the evaluations, Bruce became a deputy assigned to the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in Santee.
“The county clearly understood and appreciated that he was unfit for duty and prone to violence, but hired him anyway,” the 2007 lawsuit said. “Not only did the county recklessly hire Bruce, but thereafter provided him with a Glock handgun, and allowed him to take it home with him … Bruce was permitted to take that weapon home, and as a result, at least six lives were forever altered.”
Those lives included Bruce and his wife, Kristin Marie Maxwell-Bruce, 38, their two young boys, and her parents, Jim and Kay Maxwell.
However, during pretrial motions in June 2008, U.S. District Judge John Houston dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that the county was negligent in hiring Bruce as a deputy. Houston agreed with the county that Bruce “already had psychological issues before the county hired him and that he would have had the same issues whether or not the county hired him.”