Dorner manhunt: Police fired at carriers without warning, lawyer says
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The newspaper carriers fired upon by Los Angeles police during a manhunt for a fugitive ex-officer received ‘no commands, no instructions and no opportunity to surrender,’ their attorney said.
Emma Hernandez, 71, was delivering the Los Angeles Times with her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue in Torrance on Thursday morning when Los Angeles police officers apparently mistook their blue Toyota Tacoma for a truck belonging to Christopher Dorner, the 33-year-old fugitive suspected of killing three people and injuring two others.
Hernandez, who attorney Glen T. Jonas said was shot twice in the back, was in stable condition late Thursday. Carranza received stitches on her finger.
Jonas said he was still trying to gather the facts and determine a sequence of events, but said the women were following their typical routine through the South Bay on Thursday morning, with Hernandez in the back seat handing papers to her daughter, who was driving.
Carranza would briefly slow the truck to throw papers on driveways and front walks, he said. While taking corners, the women typically turn off their lights to avoid disturbing neighbors.
Shortly after turning onto Redbeam Avenue on Thursday, Jonas said, bullets began crashing through the back windshield of the truck. The women ‘covered their faces and huddled down.’
‘They were just waiting for it to stop,’ Jonas said. ‘They felt like it was going on forever and that it was a miracle they survived. If they hadn’t ducked, they’d likely be dead.’
Jonas estimated that the officers fired 20 to 30 rounds, though he did not know the precise number. The blue pickup sat for several hours on Redbeam on Thursday, riddled with bullets. Newspapers were strewn in the back and on the street.
Bullets peppered cars, homes and triggered the alarm on one vehicle that was struck, said Alan Sidio, who lives behind the home where officers were firing.
‘That’s what’s so disturbing, that they would fire so many rounds,’ he told The Times. ‘It sounded like the Fourth of July.’
Sidio, 58, who described himself as a strong supporter of law enforcement, said he was concerned that the officers fired numerous rounds in an area filled with families and children. Sources said the officers were on a protective detail for someone named in the manifesto that police say was posted on a Facebook page they believed to be Dorner’s. In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said its officers received information a vehicle matching Dorner’s Nissan Titan was ‘seen in the area of the protection details.’
‘Later, officers observed a vehicle matching the description driving down the street weaving from one side of the street to another,’ the statement said. ‘As the vehicle continued to weave, it would speed up and slow down. The vehicle then activated its high-beam headlights as it approached closer.
‘Officers tried to approach the vehicle and an officer-involved shooting occurred.’
Jonas said the vehicle was also ‘the wrong color and the wrong model.’
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck commented on the incident at a Thursday press conference, saying: ‘Tragically, we believe this is a case of mistaken identity.’
About 25 minutes after the shooting, Torrance police opened fire after spotting another truck similar to Dorner’s at Flagler Lane and Beryl Street. No one was reported hurt.
Jonas said that while he was disturbed by the shooting, he understood it took place as officers were trying to protect one of their own from a death threat.
‘I know they had a job to protect somebody,’ he said. ‘To the credit of the officers involved, after the shooting they acted professionally when they realized what happened.’
The officers have been placed on desk duty, which is routine after an officer-involved shooting, sources said. LAPD officials said the district attorney’s office and LAPD Force Investigation Division were investigating the shooting.
Jonas said his clients did not want to speak about the incident at this point, saying the family is “in a state of shock.”
“They’re extremely traumatized,” Jonas said. “They’re just trying to make sense of what happened. From their perspective, they’re sitting in a car, doing their job and a thunderstorm of bullets comes down.”
Jonas said he was hopeful department officials “recognize the situation for what it is.”
“One would expect the city would acknowledge responsibility and handle the situation appropriately,” he said. “And if they don’t, we’ll deal with it.”
— Andrew Blankstein, Kate Mather and Robert J. Lopez