Officer Fired for Shooting of Freeway Driver

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has fired a 24-year-old officer for shooting a motorist on the San Bernardino Freeway during a dispute while the officer was on his way to work a year ago.

Gates fired Scott D. Eckstein, who was a patrol officer in the Hollywood Division, on Friday on the recommendation of a department tribunal that last week found Eckstein guilty of three counts of misconduct, Police Cmdr. William Booth said.

Eckstein, wearing civilian clothes and driving his own car, shot and wounded self-employed handyman Arthur Binford, 38, after both men had pulled their vehicles to the center divider near the Baldwin Park Boulevard exit last April 4.

Binford, of Rialto, sustained gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen, which perforated his diaphragm and destroyed part of his liver, according to a civil suit he filed in federal court seeking $500,000 in damages from Eckstein and the City of Los Angeles.

Tailgated Truck

Binford could not be reached for comment Saturday, but in a previous interview he said that Eckstein shot him after tailgating his pickup truck and then making an obscene gesture to him. Binford said he and Eckstein pulled over to the center median about 9 p.m.

"I left the engine running and walked back to his car," Binford said. "That's when he shot me three times, one after the other. He didn't say a word. He didn't even get out of the car. Then he drove away."

Neither Eckstein nor his attorney could be reached for comment. In a statement issued by police after the shooting, Lt. Charles Higbie said Eckstein shot Binford because he "believed Binford was under the influence of an unknown substance based upon his bizarre behavior and that he had possibly armed himself with a weapon."

Higbie said Eckstein noticed the pickup truck swerving from lane to lane, tailgating and speeding. Binford pulled in front of Eckstein's car, stopped his truck, and then ran toward Eckstein's car, according to the statement.

Eckstein ordered Binford to stop, and when he did not, fired three shots. He then drove off the freeway to notify the police, the statement said.

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