Landlord Mistakenly Shot During Police Pursuit

Times Staff Writer

A Long Beach landlord was in serious condition Wednesday after he was shot in the stomach by a police officer who mistook him for a fleeing suspect armed with a gun.

The landlord was holding a chrome-plated dustpan.

Officer Greg Allison, a police academy training officer who was with two recruits at the time of the Tuesday night incident, shot Vanmalibhai Galal, 59, by mistake when he confused Galal with a man who had threatened a woman nearby, police investigator John Miller said.

Typically, officers taking recruits on a "ride-along" would not handle serious crimes. Instead, they "write out a few tickets" and mostly observe, Sgt. John Allen said. But a woman flagged down Allison's car about 9:30 p.m. and reported that a man had pointed a gun at her on Long Beach Boulevard, Miller said.

"We would never, never turn down an emergency," Miller said. So Allison drove a few blocks south until he spotted the man holding a gun.

The man, upon seeing the patrol car, darted into an apartment building at 1097 Long Beach Blvd., Miller said. The two recruits remained by the police car and radioed for help while Allison chased the suspect, who ran around a corner into a dark alley at the Arcade Hotel apartment building.

Following him, Allison--a seven-year veteran of the force--came across Galal, who was carrying a chrome-plated dustpan. Seeing the metal and thinking it was a gun, he fired one shot, Miller said.

"It's very unfortunate," Miller said.

As is routine with shootings involving officers, the incident is being investigated by the department's homicide bureau and the district attorney's office.

Galal, who is married and has four children, was being treated for a stomach wound at Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach.

Tenants said they frequently see the landlord walking through the open walkway near his apartments and hotel--shooing away transients, cleaning the area, feeding cats and pigeons.

"He's always out checking on his hotel. You always see him walking around. And he's always carrying something. Sometimes it's a broom, or food for the cats or anything," tenant Ana Benitez said.

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