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Bizarre sequence precedes shooting death of unarmed man by L.A. County sheriff's deputies

Bizarre sequence precedes shooting death of unarmed man by L.A. County sheriff's deputies
Detectives investigate the fatal shooting of a man by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at Holmes Avenue and 64th Street in the Florence-Firestore area. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It was about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday when the call came in to dispatchers reporting a robbery in progress at Gage Street and Holmes Avenue in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood. The suspect had a gun, they were told.

Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies answered the call and headed north on Holmes, looking for a man in a black or dark hoodie and black shorts armed with a gun.

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About a block before the deputies reached Gage Street, at 64th Street, they saw a man matching the suspect's description, authorities say. He was standing next to a pay phone.

Whether the deputies had their emergency lights or siren on or if they announced their presence to the suspect was unclear, said homicide Lt. Eddie Hernandez. But as the two deputies drew closer to the man by the phone, Hernandez said he turned toward them and assumed a "two-hand shooting stance," pointing toward the officers.

Both deputies fired multiple times, killing the man. But there was no gun. And investigators later determined that there was no robbery down the street on Gage.

"What's being described to us is: He turned in the direction of where the deputies were approaching and when it appears he saw who they were – of course we don't know this for sure – when the deputies were there, he took that stance. Prior to that he was not in that stance," Hernandez said.

Officials later traced the call to the pay phone that the man was standing next to, Hernandez said. But investigators were not sure whether the man killed by the deputies was the caller.

"It's suspicious," Hernandez said of the circumstances. "That is where the call originated and he was the only one standing in the area. The only … inference is he was the one who possibly made that call .… Right now we can't draw any conclusions."

Detectives combed the area for security cameras and found one that may provide video of how the shooting occurred, Hernandez said.

The man has not been identified and the investigation is ongoing.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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