Calif. policeman charged with killing Baltimore native in fight over a fence

A 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol has been charged with shooting and killing a Baltimore-area native last week over a longtime property dispute, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said.

Gordon Lee Chance Jr., 35, a Kenwood High School graduate who moved to Sacramento 10 years ago, died after being shot Thursday in the last of a series of arguments with his neighbor over the siting of a fence separating the front yards of their homes.


The neighbor, Officer Jack Thomas, 44, of Orangevale, Calif., was charged with first-degree murder. Authorities alleged that he shot Mr.Chance once in the chest and five times in the head with a .357 Magnum handgun.

The victim's cousin, William Chance of Baltimore, described the family as "shocked and appalled" by the death.


"There had been tension over the fence for the last four years," Mr. Chance said. "The patrolman . . . had a court order to move it, but he believed he had so much pull out there that nobody would come over there to force him to move it."

According to the sheriff's department, Mr. Chance had been arrested early Thursday on a vandalism charge after allegedly taking a chain saw from Mr. Thomas and using it to cut down the fence, which the former Marylander claimed was erected on his property.

Mr. Chance was released after promising to appear in court on the charge. He returned to his home Thursday afternoon, found Mr. Thomas repairing the fence, and the argument allegedly was ended by gunfire.

The victim's father, Gordon L. Chance Sr. of Middlesex, said his son was an aspiring actor who had been delivering newspapers and working as a carpenter in California. He said his son joined the Marines after graduating from Kenwood in 1973 and spent six months of his two-year enlistment stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he was a small-arms instructor.

Mr. Chance said funeral arrangements were incomplete, but he hoped to arrange a military burial for his son.