Authorities late Wednesday were unable to explain some of the circumstances surrounding the kidnaping of a Ladera Heights woman and her young son in which members of a special Los Angeles police unit shot and killed one suspect and captured another by running him over with a police car.
Sharon Annette Langford, 31, and a 4-year-old son who police declined to name, were released unharmed as officers fired at two of three men who tried to retrieve a “substantial” ransom left along the Harbor Freeway in South-Central Los Angeles on Tuesday night, police said.
Officials Wednesday said they were looking into what prompted the members of the Special Investigations Section to fire a total of 14 rounds at two of the suspects, fatally wounding one of them, even though the two men apparently were unarmed and did not threaten the officers as they tried to escape.
Also unclear, a police spokesman acknowledged, was why Langford and the child were kidnaped, where the pair was held and how and when they were released.
Police spokesman Cmdr. William Booth said a “supplemental press release” will be issued today. “We’re continuing our investigation,” Booth said.
The SIS unit came under fire from some city officials after The Times reported last year that it sometimes watched criminals commit violent crimes before arresting them. The group specializes in surveillance techniques and is often used in kidnap-for-ransom situations.
Last month, after reviewing SIS activities, the LAPD issued a new “reverence for human life policy” that instructs officers to protect potential crime victims even if it jeopardizes an undercover investigation.
The daylong chain of events surrounding the kidnaping began Tuesday morning when Langford and her son were taken from a residential area in West Los Angeles at gunpoint, investigators said.
After the abduction took place, the woman’s family was telephoned and told a ransom would have to be paid for the safe return of the woman and the boy.
‘Shot and Killed’
“During these calls the suspects stated that both victims would be shot and killed if the police were contacted,” Police Lt. William Hall said. In spite of the warnings, police were called and a plan to pay the “large” ransom demand was made, he said.
Booth did not know why the woman was targeted by kidnapers or how much money was demanded.
Shortly after 8 p.m., the ransom package, with an undisclosed amount of money, was left alongside the freeway near Gage Avenue under the close watch of hidden SIS officers.
About 8:30 p.m., Henry Bradford, 35, of Los Angeles arrived at the ransom drop-off and picked up the package, Hall said.
As he descended the freeway’s embankment, the SIS officers ordered him to stop and drop the package. But he ran toward a car stopped at 64th and Flower streets, tossed the package to two people inside and then fled on foot, Hall said.
Suspect Hit by Police Car
Detective Michael Sirk, 44, who was sitting in his unmarked car, saw Bradford escaping and feared that the “victims would be killed” if he was not stopped, he said.
Sirk knocked Bradford to the ground with the front of his car. Bradford was then taken into custody without incident, Hall said. He was treated at the scene.
The car with the two other men tried to flee, but four other SIS officers, identified as Jerry Brooks, 49, Charles H. Bennett, 32, Lawrence Winston, 35, and David J. Harrison, 40, saw them escaping and fired 14 shots.
One 24-year-old suspect was shot in the head and died at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. His identity was withheld until relatives could be notified.
The other suspect, also unidentified, fled and was being sought by investigators, Hall said.