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Cops made 'inaccurate conclusion' in Dorner-related shooting, Beck says

Law EnforcementCrime, Law and JusticeChristopher DornerLos Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that he sympathized with the eight officers who mistakenly opened fire on two women during the search for Christopher Dorner but said they did not meet the department's use of force standards.

Beck spoke to reporters after the Police Commission -- which oversees the LAPD and has the final word on officer shootings -- unanimously accepted his finding that the officers violated policy.

“This was a tragic cascade of circumstance that led to an inaccurate conclusion by the officers,” Beck said. “I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force, and the shooting did not meet that standard.”

MORE: The manhunt for Christopher Dorner

Beck will now determine how to discipline the officers, if at all. He declined to discuss specifically what that discipline may be but told reporters it "could be anywhere from extensive retraining up to termination."

The officers have been assigned non-field duties since the Feb. 7, 2013, shooting, he said. The department has not identified the officers over concerns for their safety, police officials said.

The incident occurred during a massive manhunt for Dorner, the ex-LAPD officer who sought vengeance against law enforcement officials he blamed for his firing. He ambushed police in Riverside and Corona in the predawn hours of Feb. 7, killing one officer and wounding others.

Officers from the LAPD's Hollywood Division had been dispatched to a quiet residential neighborhood in Torrance with orders to guard the home of an LAPD captain who had been involved in the decision to fire Dorner for dishonesty and other misconduct.

At some point, the officers received a report that a pickup resembling Dorner’s was seen in the area. Shortly after 5 a.m., a truck turned onto the street.

The truck -- which had a license plate beginning in "8D," like Dorner's -- drove slowly down the street, then accelerated and crossed the center line, Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said in a statement Tuesday.

"Ultimately, the officers believed by the erratic manner the vehicle was driving that it was occupied by Dorner," Soboroff said. "These observations led the officers to discharge their weapons at the vehicle to stop the threat."

As the vehicle approached the house, officers opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the truck. When the shooting stopped, they realized their mistake. The truck was a different make and model -- a Toyota Tacoma, not a Nissan Titan. The color wasn't gray, as was Dorner’s pickup, but blue. And it wasn't Dorner inside the truck, but a woman and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.

Investigators found that the officers fired more than 100 times.

Emma Hernandez, 71, was shot twice in the back; her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, sustained superficial wounds. The women later agreed to a $4.2-million settlement with the city.

Their attorney, Glen Jonas, said Tuesday he commended Beck for "taking a leadership position on this issue."

"Frankly, I don't see how anyone could argue that it was within policy," he said.

The police commission also found Tuesday that the two officers involved in an "intense gun battle" with Dorner in Riverside County acted within department policy. That shooting occurred shortly before 1:30 a.m. Feb. 7 as the officers were en route to a protective detail, Soboroff said.

A resident told the officers he thought he had seen Dorner leaving a gas station, Soboroff said. The officers spotted Dorner's truck and were following it when the vehicle pulled to the side of the road.

The driver's door opened and Dorner began firing an assault rifle at the officers, Soboroff said. One of the officers was grazed in the head; the other was "sprayed with shattered glass."

In his statement, Soboroff called both incidents "tragic," saying the department "will adopt the lessons learned, both good and bad."

Beck took time to honor Dorner's victims Tuesday, sending "condolences" and "heartfelt sorrow" to their loved ones.

"Their lives were cut short by a man who had no soul," he said.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Law EnforcementCrime, Law and JusticeChristopher DornerLos Angeles Police Department
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