Gun Barrage Kills Bystander : Crime: Mother of four dies when sheriff’s deputies fire at man with gun in liquor store.
A mother of four who had stopped at a liquor store Tuesday night for items to restock her in-progress birthday celebration was shot to death when Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies chased a man into the store and critically wounded him in a barrage of gunfire.
When the shooting stopped at E&W; Liquor, at Central Avenue and Century Boulevard, Gianna Maria Blue was lying in a pool of blood. Blue, who turned 30 that day, died 90 minutes later at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
The wounded man, who was taken to the hospital in critical condition, was identified by family members as Hernandez Vincson, 24, a cement finisher and roofer who lived a few blocks from the store.
The Sheriff’s Department said the deputies opened fire after Vincson ran into the store about 10 p.m. Tuesday with them in pursuit. Authorities said he pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at them as they stood just outside the door. Six other customers and employees of the liquor store were unhurt.
Blue’s father, Will Wright, her sisters and other relatives said they were angry that deputies would fire into a store with innocent people standing nearby.
“Yes, I’m angry,” Wright said. “I just don’t know who to be angry with.”
Authorities on Wednesday declined to describe Blue’s wounds other than to say she had been hit in the upper torso. Her distraught family said doctors at the hospital told them two bullets went through her heart and spun her around, allowing two more bullets to hit her in the back. The hospital declined to comment.
“I was kind of glad it happened like that because it means she didn’t suffer,” said Runaa DeBruce, a longtime family friend who described herself as Blue’s “play stepsister.”
Deputy Hal Grant, a sheriff’s spokesman, said investigators had not determined if Blue was shot by the deputies or by Vincson. Grant said a five-shot, .38-caliber revolver was taken from Vincson. It had one spent cartridge in it and four bullets that had not been fired, Grant said.
Vincson was placed in police custody at the hospital on suspicion of assault against a police officer.
Grant said the two deputies had spotted Vincson outside the store after a pedestrian flagged down another patrol car and reported that a man was at the corner of Central and Century waving a gun.
After the deputies arrived and ordered him to halt, Grant said, Vincson fled into the store.
Grant declined to identify the deputies, saying that they had been temporarily assigned to station duty, a standard procedure in deputy-involved shootings.
The two, he said, fired “eight to 10" shots, using 9-millimeter semiautomatic service pistols. But three witnesses--a man who was with Blue, a man who was with Vincson and the store manager--contend that the deputies fired many more shots into the store as customers leaped over counters for cover and store employees, fearing a robbery, dived frantically for weapons.
Vincson’s mother, Irene, said doctors told her her son had 12 bullet wounds, all either in his right shoulder, right chest or right side, and a broken arm. Grant said he did not know how many wounds Vincson had and the hospital declined comment.
Vincson’s neighbor, Cleophus Bealey, 40, who had walked with him to the store and was inside when the shooting started, said the barrage of gunfire directed at Vincson was so intense that it kept him on his feet as long as it lasted.
Bealey disputed almost every detail of the sheriff’s account of the incident, contending that the deputies fired upon Vincson without provocation and without warning. If Vincson had a gun, it was never in view, Bealey said.
But Barry Hawes, manager of the liquor store, said he had seen Vincson outside the store with a chrome-colored revolver with a black handle shortly before the shooting. Vincson returned the gun to his right front pants pocket before the deputies arrived, Hawes said.
According to Bealey, the deputies, who had been driving by in an unmarked car, started after Vincson because they saw him urinating on a wall. He said he never heard an order for Vincson or anyone else to halt.
He and another customer, Nicole Hall, 17, who had just left the store, said Vincson walked, rather than ran, inside. Hall, however, said she heard one officer say to someone, “Stop walking.”