Deputy's Lawman Father Backs Him

Times Staff Writers

The father of a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who opened fire on an Air Force police officer in a controversial shooting said Friday that his son had fired because he had felt threatened and had a "split second to react."

In the family's first comments since the incident, which was recorded by a bystander and broadcast repeatedly to a national audience over the last several days, former Compton Police Chief Ivory John Webb Sr., questioned the assertion that his son told Senior Airman Elio Carrion to "get up" and then shot him three times when he rose.

The broadcast recording of the scene shows Carrion lying sprawled on the ground with Deputy Ivory John Webb standing near him. After a shouted exchange between the two, the tape appears to show Webb telling Carrion twice to "get up." As Carrion does so, the recording shows Webb firing three times.

A few moments earlier, however, a voice appears to say "stay down" although that portion of the recording is less clear.

"It could be, 'Shut up,' " the senior Webb said, referring to what his son shouted at Carrion. "And I don't know what they've done with the tape either," he added. "It was hard to understand the clarity, and I want the tape to be totally evaluated."

His son has told him that he felt his life was in danger when Carrion started to rise from the ground.

"He did feel threatened when [Carrion] began to raise," Webb said. "It was a surprise, and he had a split second to react.

"If Carrion had got down and stayed down, none of this would have happened," Webb said.

Deputy Webb's actions in the shooting have been sharply criticized by experts in police use of force who have viewed the recording. The experts questioned his decision to shoot and said he put himself in danger by standing too close to Carrion and by not calling for backup.

Both the sheriff's homicide division and the FBI are investigating the shooting, and FBI experts have been asked to enhance the recording.

The shooting took place Sunday night after a brief high-speed chase that ended when the fleeing Corvette in which Carrion was a passenger crashed in a Chino neighborhood.

"It should be clearly noted that the two young men were fleeing from the officer and were driving faster than 100 miles per hour," the elder Webb said, referring to Carrion and the driver of the car, Luis Fernando Escobedo.

"They failed to comply with the officer's lawful orders and obstructed the officer in the charge of his duties. Every citizen has the responsibility to obey the orders of an officer.... They didn't. Both of them. And their actions determined the outcome of this situation."

Webb said his son told him he had been trying to keep the two occupants of the car controlled until backup arrived.

His son's "spotless service record, the fact he's never been in trouble one day in his life," should be weighed against the behavior of Carrion and Escobedo, Webb added.

"These young men violated the law, and no officer can tell from this situation who they're dealing with, who has done what inside that car," Webb said. "He had a dangerous situation: fleeing subjects, with no idea who these individuals are, and what they are doing.

"We support Ivory. He was doing his job," Webb said. "He has never been reprimanded for being overly aggressive. He's a competent, well-trained officer. I've let him know all things will work out, it will bear out in a perfect, divine order. I'm very proud of him. I couldn't think of a better profession for him."

Earlier on Friday, Carrion's family held a news conference in front of the San Bernardino County sheriff's headquarters to call for the deputy's arrest and to criticize Sheriff Gary Penrod's decision to place him on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

"We demand justice. We demand that this man should be prosecuted," said Mariela Carrion, 19, the airman's wife. "He shouldn't be out on the street with a badge. He doesn't deserve it."

Carrion, who recently returned from a six-month tour of duty in Iraq, was discharged Friday night from Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. His father, Helio, said his son can't walk because one shot was fired into his left leg.

The family's attorney, Luis Carrillo of South Pasadena, said the deputy should have been immediately arrested after the incident, and that the recording clearly shows that Carrion was trying to cooperate with the deputy. Sheriff's officials said Carrion will not be charged with any crime.

Meanwhile, the Chino resident who recorded the shooting, Jose Luis Valdes, was arrested by Pomona police Friday on an outstanding warrant from Dade County, Fla., for aggravated assault.

Carrillo, who represents Valdes as well as the Carrion family, accused police of arresting his client in retaliation for the video recording. San Bernardino County sheriff's officials denied that, saying they had no involvement in the arrest.

Valdes, a used-car salesman who fled Cuba for the United States in the early 1990s, was taken into custody while visiting a federal immigration office in Pomona to replace his immigrant registration card. Immigration officials discovered the warrant during a routine background check and called police, said Lt. Rick Mackey of the Pomona Police Department.

The warrant for aggravated assault on a person over the age of 65 and aggravated assault with a firearm was issued by Miami-Dade police in 1998.

Valdes is being held without bail pending an extradition hearing.


Times staff writers Ashley Powers and Susannah Rosenblatt and Times researcher John Tyrrell contributed to this report.

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