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Unprovoked Shooting, Caught on Tape

Los Angeles: Los Angeles Police detectives are seeking the public's help in identifying a trio who shot at a man outside a Wilmington liquor store.  The confrontation and shooting were caught on surveillance video.

On November 11, 2006, around 10:20 PM, three men drove up to John's Liquor, located in the 1600 block of North Avalon Boulevard.  The driver and one of two passengers exited the sedan and walked into the liquor store.

The second passenger, who was waiting in the front seat, confronted a group of three men, who were talking on the sidewalk.  The man in the car told the men on the sidewalk that they "did not belong there" as they were "Mexicans."

When the driver and other passenger returned to the sedan, the passenger in the front seat fired one shot from a handgun at the three men on the sidewalk, but none of the men were injured.

"It's amazing none of the men were injured, considering the suspect fired from only 15 feet away," said Lieutenant Paul Vernon.  "This was completely unprovoked.  The footage from inside the store shows the accomplices quite clearly.  We hope someone will recognize them and lead us to the shooter."

Witnesses described the shooter as Hispanic, in his early twenties, with black hair, and brown eyes.  He weighed about 195 pounds. 

The two accomplices also appeared to be Hispanic and in their twenties.  They were wearing distinctive shirts that someone may recognize.  The suspects' car may be a tan or silver Toyota Avalon. 

Anyone with information about the suspects and their vehicle are asked to contact Officer Dan Vasquez or Officer Walter McMahon, Harbor Gang Detective Section, at 310-522-2040.  On weekends and after hours, call the toll-free 24-hour number at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855).

Video footage of the shooting and from inside the liquor store is available through Media Relations Section.

Los Angeles Police Commission President John W. Mack's Comments On Tragic Use Of Force Incident

Today, Los Angeles Police Commission President John W. Mack stated the following:

We thank you very much for coming here today to hear our decision regarding this incident. 

My fellow Police Commissioners and I have now completed the long and extremely difficult task of carefully reviewing and making a decision regarding the use of force incident which resulted in the death of 19 month-old Suzie Peña and her father José Peña, on July 10, 2005. This incident is nothing short of tragic. And it is tragic for all of us…the family, the officers involved, and the community at large. It is a loss for the City of Los Angeles and it will be remembered as a sad and tragic day in our City's history.

We reviewed a very comprehensive investigation regarding this complex incident, and I want to thank the members of the Los Angeles Police Department who completed this work.

In addition to the Department's exhaustive investigation, we considered the independent review from the Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of André Birotte, Jr. Again, his review looked at every aspect of this tragedy.

A full account of this incident will be provided in a public report on the Commission's web-site in the near future. However, I am going to provide a very brief review of the events that occurred on July 10, 2005:

Officers responded to an "Unknown Trouble" call at a used car lot located at 10420 Avalon Boulevard. Shortly after arriving on the scene, officers encountered José Peña, who was holding Suzie Peña in his arms. The officers were fired upon by José Peña. Although officers returned fire, nobody was hit by gunfire. Additional officers responded to the incident and an attempt was made to rescue an additional victim, 16 year-old Ilsy DePaz, José Peña's step-daughter, who was trapped inside the lot. During the rescue attempt, José Peña again fired on officers who returned the fire. Again, nobody was hit during that exchange of gunfire. Subsequently, there was a second attempt which was successful in rescuing Ilsy DePaz.

Metropolitan Division's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit was notified of the incident and responded, along with officers from the division's K-9 unit. Crisis negotiation experts also responded and several attempts were made to persuade José Peña to surrender peacefully.

Over two hours after the initial police response, José Peña came out of the lot's office, armed with a handgun and holding his 19 month-old daughter, Suzie Peña. A shot was fired at José Peña when he reached for his gun. José Peña was not struck by the shot and ran back into the office. SWAT officers entered the building with the intention of rescuing Suzie Peña and halting the threat posed by José Peña . SWAT officers exchanged gunfire with José Peña inside the office as José Peña continued to hold Suzie Peña. In the course of that exchange, one SWAT officer was shot in the shoulder, and both José and Suzie Peña sustained fatal injuries. The officer who was shot has recovered from his injuries and has returned to duty.

During this incident, LAPD officers fired a total of 109 rounds, 54 by SWAT officers in the confrontation with Jose Peña in the office area. José Peña fired a total of 39 rounds, 15 in the office area in the confrontation with SWAT officers. As observed by officers and videotape surveillance cameras, José Peña held his daughter Suzie Peña in his right arm to his chest while holding his gun and shooting it with his left hand.

Throughout this incident, José Peña made repeated threats to kill himself, family members, his daughter Suzie Peña , and police officers. These threats were heard by witnesses and the Commission in tape recorded conversations with José Peña during the negotiations to attempt his surrender.

The Board of Police Commissioners has been provided with analysis and recommendations regarding this incident from the Chief of Police and the Inspector General. After thorough and careful consideration and review, the Commissioners found that the majority of Los Angeles Police Department personnel involved in this incident performed in accordance with policies and protocols as they existed at that time. Nevertheless, in reviewing this incident, the Department and the Commission have identified room for improvement in the manner in which the Department responded to this challenging and violent event.

It is the Commission's and Chief Bratton's intent that the lessons of this tragic incident be learned and that the Department improve its capacity to respond to future incidents of a similar nature. The Department has already instituted a series of improvements, which the Commission approved today that will provide for an improved police response in future incidents. To supplement the improvement already planned or instituted, the Commission has identified further areas for improvement and has directed the Chief of Police to institute them. There were some command and control concerns that have been identified and will be addressed.

The improvements resulting from the review of this incident include, but are not limited to, the following:

Improved training to supervisory personnel to better equip them with the skills they need to effectively manage critical incidents.

A thorough review of training and qualification practices for the Urban Police Rifle. We expect that modifications to those practices will be made as necessary to improve upon existing standards and ensure appropriate use of these weapons in future incidents.

A review of the training provided to officers for situations involving barricaded armed suspects, and for hostage situations where the hostages are attacked by the hostage-taker.

Research to ensure that the distraction devices used by SWAT officers when they enter buildings provide the best level of protection for officers and the public.

A review of the training of SWAT officers regarding the use of their weapons during high-stress incidents, such as being fired upon by a suspect. It is our expectation that this review will result in additional training scenarios so that officers can better protect themselves and the public they serve.

A review and codification of the protocols and decision-making processes used by SWAT during hostage situations. The goal of this review is to ensure that key tactical decisions made during SWAT operations are consistent with the goal of achieving strategic, managed operations. Additionally, Chief Bratton convened a Board of Inquiry under the direction of Assistant Chief Sharon Papa to review the Department's SWAT procedures and protocols. That process should be concluded soon.

The Commission has further directed that the scope of the Department's investigation and review process for categorical uses of force be broadened. Future investigations and reviews will fully evaluate the performance of supervisors and senior personnel with command responsibility for officers involved in this type of incident.

Again, this was an extremely tragic and traumatic incident that we deeply regret – one that we all wish did not happen. And for this Commission, the decision-making process was a difficult, lengthy and complex one. The Commission believes that in the final analysis, the majority of personnel involved in this incident took courageous steps in an effort to diffuse a very frightening hostage situation. Nevertheless, this is an organization that strives to improve in everything that it does. In that connection, there are valuable lessons that must be learned from this incident and we are encouraged by the Department's willingness to engage in this self-critical analysis to ensure that future incidents of this magnitude are handled in accordance with best police practices.

As in all Categorical Use of Force cases, the Police Commission receives a recommendation from the Chief of Police in three categories: 1) tactics; 2) drawing of the weapon; and 3) the use of force. The Police Commission then reviews, evaluates, and determines the appropriateness of the three aspects of the incident. The Police Commission adopted the recommendations of the Chief of Police as follows:

Two Police Officer II's, who were on the perimeter of the scene, were found Administrative Disapproval for their tactics, and Out of Policy Administrative Disapproval for their use of force. These officers were not involved in the deadly confrontation with José Peña in the office.

As it relates to the tactics in this incident, the Police Commission unanimously found that the tactics employed by the officers were:

Administrative Disapproval
Two Police Officer II's

Formal Training
One Lt. I
Three Sgt. I's
Four Police Officer III's
One Police Officer II+6
One Police Officer II+II
Six Police Officer II's

In Policy, Divisional Training
One Police Officer III

In Policy, No Action
One Lt. II
Two Sgt. II's
Three Police Officer III+I's
Six Police Officer III's

Relating to the drawing of the weapons, the Police Commission unanimously found that the drawing of the weapons was: 

All Officers were found In Policy, No Action.

Regarding the use of force, or firing of the weapons, the Police Commission unanimously found that the use of force was: 

Administrative Disapproval, Out of Policy
Two Police Officer II's

In Policy, No Action
Eight Police Officer III's
One Police Officer II

The Inspector General's abridged summary of this incident, which will include a review of the Police Commission's findings, will be available on LAPDOnline.org in the near future.

My fellow Commissioners and I are deeply committed to transparency and accountability to the community, while balancing the legal protections afforded peace officer personnel records and the release of information. Pursuant to California law, my fellow Commissioners and I, along with those who were present in closed session, are unable to divulge the details discussed during that meeting.

Again, I want to thank all of you for your patience as the investigation of this complex and sad incident went through its investigatory process.

Thank you.

Governor Awards State’s Highest Award to 4 LAPD Officers

Los Angeles:  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced, today, the names of six California peace officers whom he has awarded California’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, the state’s highest award for valor.  Four of the six officers honored were Los Angeles police officers:  Jeffrey Jensen, Paul Waymire, Troy Zeeman, and Bryan Gregson.

"The LAPD is honored that four of its own have been recognized for the state’s highest award," said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton.  "California is fortunate to have so many professional and deserving police officers, who are equally deserving of this honor.  Just as the governor has honored these four LAPD officers today, these four officers have honored LAPD and the City of Los Angeles by their service, bravery and willingness to sacrifice."

Police Officers Troy Zeeman, 32, and his partner, Bryan Gregson, 34, were awarded the California Medal of Valor for their capture of an armed gang member on February 17, 2005.  The officers were assigned to the Harbor Police Station in San Pedro.  They recognized a known, violent gang member, who was wanted in the drive-by shooting death of a woman.  The gang member did not give up easily.  During a foot chase, he turned on Officer Zeeman, pointed his gun, and said, "You’re dead!" The gang member fired one shot, which missed the officer.  Undaunted, the officers returned fire, wounding the armed man, and then arrested him.

Officer Zeeman joined the LAPD in 1995.  Officer Gregson followed in 1998.  Both officers left the LAPD, joining the Newport Beach Police Department last fall.

Police Officers Paul Waymire, 43, and Jeffrey Jenson, 31, were assigned to the Mission Police Station in the San Fernando Valley.  On October 16, 2005, the partners noticed black smoke billowing from a car accident.  They stopped to help two good Samaritans, who were trying to put out the fire.  Ignoring their own welfare, both officers braved the flames to pull a victim from the inferno, just moments before the car exploded.  Their willingness to sacrifice their lives for another person was recognized with by the state’s highest award.

Officer Waymire is a 17-year LAPD veteran, still serving at the Mission Police Station.  Officer Jensen recently transferred to the nearby West Valley Police Station.  He had been with the LAPD for less than one year when he assisted his training officer in this daring rescue.

Burger King Donation to the Dorris Family

Ldorris5 Today the owners of the Burger King, who held a fundraiser for the family of fallen LAPD hero Officer Landon Dorris, presented the proceeds in the form of a check to the Dorris Family. Chief William Bratton, along with the hardworking officers from Northeast Area praised Ralph and Lawrence Cimmarusti, owners of the fast food restaurant, for their wonderful giving spirit.  Also praised for his equally kind heart was John Dutton, Director of Business Development, Sceptre Group of Companies, Inc., who matched a portion of the dontations. 

We would also like to take this opportunity to give a "special thank you" to all of the community members who participated in the fund raising event that was held on November 2, 2006.  This dayLdorris7 represented a great day as we as police officers watched  people who represented all walks of life help their police department come to the aid of one of its own. 

LA County District Attorney Findings

The Justice System Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has completed its review of the July 10, 2005, fatal shooting of Jose Raul Lemus Pena and Suzie Marie Pena by Los Angeles Police Officers Matthew Valencia, Jeff Ennis, Samuel Marullo, Gina Holstrom, John Rusth, Dennis O'Sullivan, Benjamin Santero, Dan Sanchez, William Casey, Robert Gallegos, Jr. and Eduardo Perez. We have concluded that the officers acted lawfully in self‑defense and in defense of others.

The following analysis is based upon reports prepared by the Los Angeles Police Department submitted...

(for the rest of this article, please click here...)

Van Nuys Gang-Related Homicide

Los Angeles: Last night a known Van Nuys gang member was shot and killed by a rival gang member at the corner of Kittridge Street and Woodman Avenue.

On Tuesday, November 28, 2006, around 5:00 P.M., Van Nuys Area patrol officers responded to a "Shots Fired" radio call.  When officers arrived they found 23-year-old Juan Manuel Alonzo suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.  He was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

Ongoing gang rivalry and a dispute over gang turf were motives for this crime.  The suspects are two male Hispanics in their early 20s.  The weapon was a dark-metal handgun.  After the shooting, both suspects fled southbound on Woodman Avenue in a blue Ford Mustang.

Anyone with information regarding this information is asked to call Van Nuys Homicide Detectives A. Lopez or J. Nuttall at 818-374-0040 or 818-374-1963, after 5:00 P.M.  On weekends and during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free Detective Information Desk at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855). Callers may remain anonymous

Beauty Salon Robbery Caught on Tape

Los Angeles: Detectives are seeking the public's help in identifying a suspect who robbed a beauty supply store at gunpoint in the west Wilshire area of Los Angeles.

The crime occurred on Wednesday, November 22, 2006, around 7:10 P.M., at the Pico Beauty Supply and Salon, 4900 block of West Pico Boulevard. During commission of the robbery, the suspect pointed a pistol-grip shotgun at the cashier. Once money was taken from the cashier, the robber walked out of the store.

The suspect was a male Black, approximately 6 feet tall, 20 to 30 years old. He wore a black ski mask, black hooded coat and black pants.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detectives Webster Wong or Earl Perry, Wilshire Robbery Section, at 213-922-8205. On weekends and after hours, call the toll-free Detective Information desk at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855).  Callers may remain anonymous.

Video footage of the robbery may be seen by clicking here.

Two Pacoima Youths Shot, One Dies

Los Angeles: Two teenage boys in Pacoima were shot after being confronted by three gang members Monday evening; one of the 17-year-old victims died from his injuries.

On November 27, 2006, at about 7:00 P.M., the two boys, both 17, were riding their bicycles in the 12700 block of Van Nuys Boulevard. They were confronted by three male Hispanic gang members wearing dark hooded sweatshirts.

At least two of the suspects opened fire on the pair, killing one of the juveniles. The second victim sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was transported in stable condition to a local hospital for treatment.

Foothill Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the shooting to contact them. Anyone with information should call Detective J. Martinez or M. Brownell at 818-834-3115 or 818-756-8861 during normal business hours. During off-hours and on weekends, call the 24-hour toll free Detective Information Desk at (877) LAWFULL (529-3855). Callers may remain anonymous.

Police Arrest Burglary Suspect in Harbor Area

Los Angeles:  Police in San Pedro arrested 24-year-old Moses Grajeda after a violent, hand-to-hand struggle early Tuesday morning, November 21, 2006.

Neighbors called police around 3:15 A.M. after seeing Grajeda prowling around cars in the 800 block of West 34th Street.  A police sergeant made the first contact with Grajeda, who tried to walk away.  The sergeant and two more officers caught up to Grajeda as he tried to climb over the fence of an elevated courtyard.

Grajeda removed his jacket and fought with the officers.  The suspect and officers struggled against a fence on a ledge, about 40 feet above the ground.  Grajeda made several attempts to disarm the officers.  At one point, 26-year-old Police Officer Laurence Meyerowitz, 9 months with the LAPD, tried to place a carotid hold around Grajeda’s neck.  Grajeda continued to fight in spite of the carotid hold and being pepper sprayed.

Grajeda was subdued only after the officers’ help call was answered by several more officers from LAPD and the Port Authority.  Following his arrest, officers found that Grajeda’s jacket contained narcotics, a loaded magazine to a handgun, and shaved keys, commonly used by car burglars.

Grajeda and one police officer were treated at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital for injuries sustained in the fight.  Both were released from the hospital.  Grajeda was booked on charges of Resisting Arrest and Possession of Narcotics for Sale.

Because a carotid restraint hold was applied, the Force Investigation Division is required to investigate the use of force.  Questions can be referred to Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.

Troubled, but No State of Siege

While I appreciate the substantial coverage the Daily News provided to this important issue, I want to correct the record as to my remarks regarding the state of the Valley.

I do NOT believe the San Fernando Valley is presently in a "state of siege" by gang violence.

The violence we have seen this year needs all of our collective efforts to quell. Our success in that endeavor does in part depend on each stakeholder and contributor having a sense of urgency to work more effectively. Describing our condition in a manner that elicits such an urgency is valuable, however, suggesting a "state of siege" exists is counter-productive in two manners.

One, while the levels of violence are unacceptable, their concentrations in the San Fernando Valley are not extreme in comparison to many other parts of the city or region. The use of the term "state of siege" poses the risk of the situation being exaggerated or magnified beyond its actual existence. Such a conclusion can result in people dismissing this as a real problem requiring real action on their part.

Second, the situation we are in can and will be successfully addressed by a sustained effort that disassembles those influences that are contributing to the increase in gang-related violence. However, terrifying those who live and work in our communities by describing our current situation in such an extreme manner risks undermining our success in gaining their willing participation to step out in their commitment of added resources to strengthen neighborhoods against the perils of gang violence.

The men and women of our Department are focused on reducing the level of gang violence we have experienced this year in the San Fernando Valley.  Their work, in concert with the contributions of others in the law enforcement community, schools, community and faith-based organizations are making an impact everyday. Successes have been achieved in addressing this increase in violence and I believe the added strategies discussed last week before the Board of Police Commissioners will further benefit this problem.

LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore