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Old 07-12-2005, 01:50 AM
titantoo titantoo is offline
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Default NYTimes:Man and Young Daughter Die in Shootout With Police

July 12, 2005
Man and Young Daughter Die in Shootout With Police

LOS ANGELES, July 11 -An armed man and his 17-month-old daughter, whom he had been using as a shield, died on Sunday evening in a shootout with the police here.

The police on Monday defended their actions, saying the man, Jose R. Pena, left them no choice.

The police said Mr. Pena, 35, used his daughter, Susie Marie, as a shield as he shot repeatedly at police officers who, responding to a report of a disturbance, had surrounded his car wash business in the Watts section of the city. After efforts to negotiate the child's release failed and the man opened fire once again, officers shot him and the girl was killed in the exchange, a police spokesman said.

The police said Monday that it was not clear whether the child died from their bullets or Mr. Pena's. An officer, Daniel Sanchez, 39, was shot in the shoulder during the final assault and is expected to recover.

The child's mother, Lorena Lopez, said she had no doubt who fired the fatal shots.

"The police killed my daughter," Ms. Lopez said, tearfully and in Spanish, in the driveway of her green frame house on the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 104th Street. She said she had told the police during the crisis that Mr. Pena, from whom she is separated, was depressed about his failing business. "I told them he needed to be helped," she said.

Ms. Lopez said that no one from the police department had contacted her to explain how her daughter died. "I want the police to pay for this," she said.

The child was only the second hostage to be killed in a case involving the department's special weapons and tactics team in its 38-year history, Chief William J. Bratton said on Monday.

But Chief Bratton blamed Mr. Pena for the child's death, saying he precipitated the crisis by endangering neighbors and his child with a 9-millimeter pistol, which he repeatedly fired wildly. He said that Mr. Pena fired as many as 40 shots, and that the officers were following department policy in returning fire.

"The suspect's actions left the officers no choice," the chief said in a late afternoon news briefing. "It was his behavior that led to the ultimate tragedy."

In the most recent hostage case involving a death, officers shot and killed an armed man holding a pregnant woman hostage outside the Mexican consulate here last November. The woman was rescued unharmed. The man's weapon turned out to be a starter's pistol.

Accusations of excessive force have dogged the Los Angeles police for years and have led to hostile relations between the police and minority residents. The televised beating of Rodney G. King in 1991 led to riots when an all-white jury acquitted the accused officers.

Such incidents have challenged mayors in this city for decades. The shooting Sunday was the first to confront the new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who took office on July 1.

Mr. Villaraigosa spoke carefully to reporters on Monday about Sunday's shooting.

"My heart is out to a grieving mother who's lost her child," he said. "My heart is also out to those officers who put their lives on the line. Not a one of them went into that situation with the intent to hurt anyone."

Eleven officers fired during the three-hour standoff, Chief Bratton said. All have been suspended under department policy and are receiving counseling. He said that all of the officers involved felt bad about the deaths.

"This was extremely traumatic for our officers," Chief Bratton said.

There was little sympathy for the police at Ms. Lopez's small home on 104th Street, just a block from the car wash. Carlos de Paz, 18, a son of Ms. Lopez and a stepbrother of Susie Marie, said the police locked him and the rest of his family in their home during the siege. Mr. de Paz said he heard "hundreds" of shots in three volleys of gunfire before the final assault, which he said began with a very loud explosion and ended with prolonged fire from automatic weapons.

"They didn't let us out of the house," he said. "My uncle tried to talk them into letting us negotiate with our stepdad, but the cops just told us to get back in the house."

Mr. de Paz said that Mr. Pena called Ms. Lopez near the end of the crisis and said the police had killed the child. "They just shot my daughter," he quoted Mr. Pena as saying. "There ain't no reason for me to live anymore."

A senior police spokesman, Lt. Paul Vernon, disputed that account, saying it was inconsistent with testimony from officers in the field. "A lot of people are saying a lot of different things," Lieutenant Vernon said, "especially the family."
"Human nature will only find itself when it finally realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal." (Mohandas Gandhi, In Search of the Supreme)
"I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep." (Albert Camus, The Stranger)
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