Grief, shock and confusion played over the faces of the 100 or so people who attended a candlelight vigil Saturday night for brothers and bail bondsmen Brandon and Zachary Sims, slain in what appears to be a senseless shooting on Thursday night in southwest Bakersfield.
The accused shooter, Stephen Michael Stewart, 26, was arrested Saturday morning at a house in central Bakersfield.
“They didn’t deserve to die like that,” father Vincent Sims said as he held on to friends and family outside of his bail bond shop, Bad Dog Bail Bonds. Just across the rail road tracks, less than a football field away, his sons’ accused killer was housed in the downtown jail.
The Sims brothers were shot to death at a house on Kamloops Drive where they’d gone to pick up Zachary Adam Perrick, 24, who’d skipped bail on a drug possession charge.
Vincent Sims on Saturday night provided the first details of the horror that took place inside the home.
Sims relayed details of what he had learned from Bakersfield Police.
According to this account, the Simses had already collared Perrick and didn’t even know Stewart was in the house.
“But he came out blasting,” Vincent Sims said.
Zachary Sims, 26, was killed in the hallway. Meanwhile, Brandon Sims, 23, who had worked for Bad Dog for several years, had Perrick in a headlock when shots were fired at him.
“He (the shooter) chased Brandon down and shot him in the front yard,” Vincent Sims said. “They didn’t have a chance. They had no clue Stewart was even in there."
Perrick ran, but came back to the scene and turned himself in, according to police. A man later identified as Stewart sped away in a car and wasn’t found until Saturday morning.
Though Perrick was a “little guy,” according to Vincent Sims, and had mostly small-time drug charges, the brothers still took all precautions and were wearing bullet-proof vests.
“They were yelling ‘Bail agents! Bail agents!’ but that guy didn’t care,” said their aunt Nadine Chapman. “He just came out of a back room shooting.”
Zachary Sims had just gotten out of the military. Zachary Sims leaves behind a wife of seven years, Carla Sims, and two children, Allissa, 6, and Elijah, 3.
As friends and family tried to grasp the enormity of their loss, two people who’d been complete strangers to Stewart before Saturday were busy cleaning up the mess in his wake.
Matt Hillis and his girlfriend, whom he would only name as Diana, woke Saturday morning to find Diana’s Talisman Drive house surrounded by police.
“Then I saw the front door was barricaded from the inside and I knew something really bad was happening,” he said.
Police had information that Stewart was inside.
Before Saturday, Hillis and Diana had no inkling of Stewart’s connection to them. It was through Diana’s 24-year-old roommate, whom police declined to name as she was not arrested.
The roommate’s boyfriend was 42-year-old Mario Melendez, who, it turns out, was friends with Stewart.
Hillis, who doesn’t live at the house, said he had expressed concern to Diana about Melendez.
In fact, Melendez was wanted on a federal warrant.
And, when officers surrounded the house at 7 a.m. it wasn’t Stewart they asked for on loudspeakers, Hillis said, but Melendez.
Neither Melendez nor Stewart responded to calls for their surrender.
Hillis said Stewart was on his phone trying to give himself up to the feds.
“Apparently his girlfriend tried to arrange something with the FBI.”
Stewart also gave snippets of information about the night of the killings, saying someone had been “tazed,” but Vincent Sims said his boys never had a chance to defend themselves.
Things escalated outside the Talisman Drive house and the SWAT team was called in. By 9:30 a.m. Saturday Stewart had come out, hands in the air. He was arrested, as was Melendez.
Bounty hunter and television reality star Duane “Dog” Chapman, who came to Bakersfield in support of the Sims family, praised police for their quick capture of Stewart.
Meanwhile, Hillis and Diana spent the day cleaning up the house, which Hillis said was trashed after police searched it for the murder weapon.
After all the adrenaline had drained away, Hillis said, they were mostly thankful that Diana’s granddaughter hadn’t stayed over this weekend.