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,
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
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
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
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
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:
Two Police Officer II's
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
DRAWING OF THE WEAPON
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.
USE OF FORCE
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