Scott Sterling never charged in 1999 shooting of childhood friend
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The son of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Scott Sterling, who was found dead in his Malibu home Tuesday, had been arrested but not charged more than a decade ago in the shooting of a childhood friend.
The 1999 shooting occurred at the then-Beverly Hills home of Donald Sterling -- lawyer, commercial real estate mogul, owner of the Clippers basketball team and fundraiser for outgoing Dist. Attorney Gil Garcetti.
The shotgun was held by Sterling’s son, Scott, then 19. Beverly Hills police investigated the shooting quickly. They asked for charges against Scott Sterling within two weeks.
More than a year after the shooting, prosecutors decided not to file charges. The victim, prosecutors said, wasn’t credible. The conclusion left police frustrated. Medical and ballistics reports show the victim was shot from behind from at least 15 feet away. Scott Sterling claimed self-defense. ‘No rational person would entertain the possibility of his story being true,’ Beverly Hills Det. Sgt. Jack Douglas wrote in a memo to prosecutors.
Trouble had been growing between Scott Sterling and his best friend, Philip Scheid, 19 at the time and a companion since kindergarten. This from a 2000 story in Los Angeles Times Magazine: ‘Together they had met a young actress and, over a period of months, both became involved with her. She is Lindsey McKeon, then 17, of Studio City, an actress on the TV sitcoms ‘Opposite Sex’ and ‘Saved by the Bell: The New Class.’ Sterling had strong feelings for McKeon -- Scheid would later say of his friend, ‘He gets crazy when it comes to her.’
McKeon had driven unannounced to the Sterlings’ walled mansion. She wanted to hand-deliver a letter to Sterling, with whom she had broken off relations. She parked behind the back entrance, on Crescent Drive. Sterling walked out of the house and joined her, she told investigators later. The two hugged and began to talk.
Then Scheid walked around the corner from Beverly onto Crescent and up to them. Scheid claims he’d just come to make peace. But Sterling apparently thought Scheid’s arrival was prearranged to embarrass him. Scheid would later tell police the two immediately went face to face in anger, and Sterling then asked Scheid to come onto his property. McKeon stayed by her car.
Once on the property, the two men argued and started to fight. Each man later accused the other of brandishing a knife, but neither was cut. In Scheid’s pocket was a non-firable starter’s pistol that belonged to Sterling. McKeon heard the arguing, though she couldn’t see them.
After they stopped fighting, Sterling grabbed a Mossberg Model 500C 20-gauge shotgun that Scheid later told police had been leaning against a wall outside the mansion. He ejected some shells, apparently in a show of bravado. Out on the street, McKeon heard the shells being ejected.
Then a car containing three teenage acquaintances pulled up and slowed to a crawl. Rebecca Duffy, 18, of Los Angeles, was the driver. They began to exchange greetings with McKeon. Inside the property, Scheid says, he noticed the starter’s pistol had fallen out of his pocket during the fight. He picked it up, along with a knife he said Sterling dropped during their struggle.
Sterling then pointed the shotgun at him. Scheid claims he turned and began to walk away. Sterling fired a shot. Scheid says he then started to run. A second shot hit him in the lower legs as he was about to exit the property the same way he had entered -- through an open electronic gate to the driveway.
On the street, the four teenagers heard two loud bangs, two to three seconds apart. Stunned, they thought the first shot was a firecracker. But an instant after the second shot, they saw a figure stumble through the gate, away from the Sterling property, and fall down. It was Scheid, bleeding from both legs. Eighteen holes were in the back of his Big Star vintage blue jeans.’
Sterling later told investigators, according to the magazine story, he did not see McKeon at all the night of the shooting. He says the fight began after he walked outside the mansion for a smoke and discovered Scheid sneaking around the grounds, inside the walls. Sterling says Scheid attacked him, pulling a knife, so he threatened to call police and ran into the house. Once inside he grabbed the shotgun and some shells, then glanced out the kitchen window and found Scheid looking at him from the carport doorway.
Next, Sterling says, he left the house, locking the door behind him and loading the gun as he walked. He says he warned Scheid to leave, but the other man advanced with the knife. He says he fired a warning shot into the wall, but Scheid kept coming to a point some 11 feet away -- as later measured by detectives investigating his account.
Sterling says he fired a second shot toward Scheid’s feet, then turned and ran back to the house, hearing Scheid’s screams. The maid and a friend who were in the house, neither of whom saw the fight, unlocked the door and let him in.
En route, McKeon learned of the starter pistol and, thinking it was a real gun, protested its presence in her car. Scheid directed her to an isolated spot and threw it into some bushes. McKeon then drove him to the hospital emergency entrance, where she left him, and went home. Back at the mansion, Sterling called 911. He claimed Scheid attacked him with a knife. Police continued to urge the district attorney to file charges, which could have been as serious as attempted murder, and grew increasingly concerned that prosecutors weren’t pursuing the case aggressively.
Police also were aware of Donald Sterling’s stature and connections as a friend of law enforcement, the magazine stated. Six weeks after the shooting, the elder Sterling was honored as Jack Webb humanitarian of the year by the LAPD Historical Society in ‘recognition of his support for law enforcement.’
As for Scott Sterling’s death, L.A. County sheriff’s investigators said Wednesday the 31-year-old may have died from a drug overdose, but it would take several weeks to know for sure, pending toxicology tests.
-- Andrew Blankstein