published Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Oversight board faults LAPD's deployment in revenge killing case

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck speaks at a news conference at LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck speaks at a news conference at LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOS ANGELES — A civilian board that found eight officers violated Los Angeles Police Department policy in mistakenly firing on two women during the manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner also faulted the department itself.

The 36-page Police Commission report released late Tuesday said the seven officers and a sergeant were rotated in during the night to protect a Dorner target's Torrance home because of overtime concerns. The sergeant wasn't trained to oversee such a protection detail and there was no operational plan. The commission also cites the officers' inadequate firepower.

"The ability to address this threat was hindered to some degree due to the experience, training and logistical deployment of the personnel assigned," the report states.

It continued: "On a larger scale, the planning conducted at the Bureau could have been more effective, ensuring proper deployment, both personnel and logistics, at the protected location."

The report noted that a commander arriving on the scene after the shooting was surprised to see a different group of officers on the protection detail that morning.

Dorner, a fired Los Angeles police officer, claimed he was unfairly dismissed and vowed revenge against law enforcement officers in a rambling online manifesto.

He killed the daughter of a former LAPD police official, along with her fiance, and two law enforcement officers over 10 days before being cornered and killing himself in a burning mountain cabin in San Bernardino County.

The mistaken shooting occurred Feb. 7, 2013. When one of the newspaper delivery women threw a paper onto the pavement in the early morning hours, an officer believing the sound was a gunshot, opened fire. Officers unable to see clearly into the vehicle riddled the pickup truck with 103 rounds, and hit seven nearby homes and nine other vehicles with gunshots and shotgun pellets.

Margie Carranza, then 47, suffered minor injuries, and her then 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez was shot in the back.

After receiving an initial briefing that day, Chief Charlie Beck made adjustments within 12 hours to ensure that officers rotating in on future protection details had additional training to avoid a similar incident, the report said.

Beck said at a news conference Tuesday that the incident was "a tragic cascade of circumstances that led to an inaccurate conclusion by the officers."

The officers had earlier learned that the target's wife had recently seen Dorner in the neighborhood appearing to case the location, and just prior to the shooting officers heard over police radio that Dorner was getting off the freeway nearby, Beck said. In the early morning hours, officers said they saw a blue Toyota pickup "creeping" down the road, according to the chief's report, with its high beams and flashers on.

In his report to the commission, the chief said he expected that officers "make every effort that they determine that the truck was in fact Dorner's."

He wrote, "While there were similarities, the truck that approached was a different make and model, different color, had no ski racks and no over-sized tires."

The shooting occurred hours after Dorner opened fire with an assault rifle on two Los Angeles police officers who had stopped his pickup in the Riverside County city of Corona.

During the resulting gun battle, one officer was grazed and the other was sprayed with shattered glass. Donner fled and a short time later shot two Riverside police officers, killing one.

The commission found that given the high priority location to which they were assigned, the officers "were equipped with inferior firepower and were at a significant tactical disadvantage." It said they should have been deployed with patrol rifles and possibly slug shotguns.

The report states that Beck will direct the training bureau to develop training to cover planning, deployment and logistics for protection details and will update the Police Commission on the training program's progress.

Beck will decide disciplinary measures for the officers, who were assigned to non-field duties during an LAPD investigation. Possible measures could include extensive retraining, suspensions or even firings.

Beck said he couldn't comment on what discipline the officers may receive because their information is private under state law. He said "these officers will all and have all received extensive training as had the whole Los Angeles Police Department relative to these types of issues."

In April, the city agreed to pay Carranza and Hernandez $4.2 million. The agreement was in addition to a separate $40,000 settlement for the loss of the pickup truck.

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