A 24-year-old man killed in a deputy-involved shooting Tuesday night in Compton was returning from a friend's vigil at the time and in the process of turning his life around, his mother said.
What one sheriff's official described as a "very chaotic" scene unfolded rapidly after deputies attempted to pull Antoine Hunter over as he and a friend left the vigil.
Authorities said they tried to stop Hunter's car after they noticed he was driving recklessly and thought he was intoxicated. But he reportedly failed to stop and led them on a short pursuit, which eventually ended when his car collided with a parked vehicle.
As the deputies approached, Hunter tried to strike one of them with his car, according to a Sheriff's Department statement. That's when one of the officers opened fire.
The second deputy reportedly heard Hunter's engine roar and the tires screech and then saw him reach for a handgun, sheriff's homicide Lt. Eddie Hernandez said.
At the same time, authorities said Hunter's friend, a passenger in the car, reached into the center console, prompting the deputy to shoot. The deputy's partner believed the gunfire came from Hunter, so he fired his gun, Hernandez said.
"It was a very chaotic incident," he said.
Compton resident Virgil Tynes, 37, was one of 50 to 60 people attending the vigil when he said the deputies "unloaded" on Hunter's car.
While he understands deputies have to make quick decisions, Tynes said they "just could have went about it a different way."
"You could just smell the gunpowder," he said.
In all, the veteran deputies, who combined have 25 years of service with the department, appear to have fired 19 rounds at Hunter and his passenger, Hernandez said.
After Martha Willis got the call notifying her that her son had been shot, she drove from Victorville to Compton to find him dead in the driver's seat of the car. His friend was taken to a local hospital.
"It's senseless — it's murder," Willis said.
She noted that Hunter was trying to change his life around after having spent seven years in prison for a burglary he committed when he was 15.
He was playing football for a local community college and things were going well, Willis said.
"If they say he is at fault, then I have to live with that," she said.
But if it wasn't Hunter's fault, then the deputy will have "to live with it," she added.
Meanwhile, a multi-pronged investigation continues.
Although Hunter was armed with a handgun, which was under his left arm tucked near his waistband, it appeared as though he never fired it, Hernandez said. Hunter's friend, who has not been identified, was unarmed.
"I understand the mother is upset," Hernandez said, adding that the shooting is "not investigated in a vacuum" and that he must follow a series of checks and balances.
Prosecutors from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the Office of Inspector General, he said, were given full access to the scene.
The deputies must also undergo a psychological evaluation within five days of the shooting and an internal investigation examining the deputies' actions and training will also commence within 10 days of the incident.
Detectives are urging anyone who witnessed the shooting or has video footage to call sheriff's Dets. Robert Gray and Daniel Morris at (323) 890-5500.
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