Deputy Wounds Man Who Fired Shotgun in Air

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Ventura County sheriff's deputy shot and injured a 23-year-old man early Sunday as the man walked down the middle of a Fillmore street firing a shotgun into the air.

Lee William Lyle of Oxnard suffered gunshot wounds to his hand, forearm and chest and was in stable condition Sunday afternoon at Ventura County Medical Center. Lyle was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

His shooting culminated a six-month string of police calls to a rented house in the 1000 block of Wileman Street, where a single mother with a young daughter frequently has raucous parties, several neighbors said Sunday.

The neighbors, many of whom requested anonymity, said sheriff's deputies first stopped by the party about 9 p.m. Saturday in response to a complaint about noise from a band. Resident Jennifer Crockett, who was celebrating her birthday, was told to lower the noise and keep the party indoors.

A deputy checked back at 12:05 a.m. and heard several gunshots from the rear of the house, Sheriff's Lt. Joe Funchess said.

The deputy, whose name was withheld, got out of his car with his shotgun just as Lyle came around the side of the house armed with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun. Lyle, walking toward the officer in the street, fired two rounds in the air and ignored the deputy's repeated warnings to drop the weapon and freeze, Funchess said.

"The deputy fired one round from a range of 25 feet as Lyle advanced, pointing his shotgun in the officer's direction," Funchess said.

The deputy will probably be put on administrative leave pending a routine investigation into the use of force, Funchess said.

Lyle, according to several party-goers interviewed Sunday, was wearing a baseball cap inscribed with the logo "Suicidal Tendencies" when he was shot.

One neighbor said that as Lyle lay on the ground covered in blood, he remained conscious and roared, "Yeah! Bitchin, man!" while a group of party-goers gathered around him.

The neighbor said the guests cheered Lyle as he was carried on a stretcher into an ambulance.

"They party and party and party," said Nancy Benegas, another resident of the middle-class, ethnically mixed neighborhood of single-family homes. "They get drunk and play horseshoes until 5 in the morning."

On Sunday afternoon, Crockett, who is about 30, sat in her living room with five male friends while her daughter, about 6, played video games. The men said they had attended the party.

"Some dude went off on a shotgun, that's all he did," Kenny Martinez said as the other men laughed.

"Everybody was freaking out," said Robert Molina. "He started walking down the street, blowing away." The men said they knew Lyle from parties in Oxnard and Fillmore but were not close to him.

Unlike her visitors, Crockett seemed nervous and hesitant to speak. Finally she said she had no idea why her guest allegedly went on the shooting spree.

"I was in bed when it happened," she said. "I'm an innocent bystander."

Christopher Pummer contributed to this story.

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