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Man on Park Outing Killed by Deputy : Violence: Authorities say he pointed a gun at officers as he was being pursued. Members of a crowd who gathered after the incident deny that the man was armed.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 28-year-old man on a holiday outing with his family was shot and killed Monday in a Willowbrook park by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who believed the man had pointed a gun at him, authorities said.

Some members of the angry, shouting crowd of about 200 who gathered after the shooting of Steve Clemons at Willowbrook Park disputed the official account of his death. Bystanders who said they witnessed the shooting said Clemons was unarmed and fleeing from deputies with a beer in his hand when he was shot in the back of the neck near one of the park’s lakes.

“He was just going to throw the beer can (in the lake) . . . throw away the evidence,” said Thomas Hill, 40, who claimed to have seen the shooting from less than 20 yards away. “There was no gun. . . . He was running away.”

A sheriff’s spokesman, however, said Clemons, who was being pursued as a suspect in a possible gang disturbance at the park, turned and pointed a gun at one of the deputies just before being killed. The victim then, in “a simultaneous motion,” threw the gun into the lake as he fell, said Sgt. Robert Olmsted.

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Investigators were awaiting a coroner’s report before disclosing where the bullet entered the victim’s body, Olmsted said. Sheriff’s officials announced late Monday they had recovered a loaded .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol from eight or 10 feet of water about 35 feet offshore.

The fatal shooting was the fourth involving sheriff’s deputies since Aug. 3. Last week, a 15-year-old Montebello boy was killed after a high-speed car chase in Artesia. Earlier, the shooting deaths of Arturo Jimenez, 19, in East Los Angeles, and Keith Hamilton, 33, in Ladera Heights, had brought criticism upon the Sheriff’s Department and an acknowledgement by Sheriff Sherman Block that there have been deputies in the department who have shown “racial biases.” Clemons was black; the two deputies involved are white.

Olmsted said the department’s version of Monday’s incident was based on interviews with the two deputies, whom he declined to identify. However, additional witnesses were being interviewed at a nearby station, he said. Clemons’ wife, Alvina, and two brothers were giving statements, family members said.

Officials said deputies from the Carson station were on a routine patrol of the park at 4 p.m. when they were alerted by a family complaining of an alleged gang disturbance.

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As the two deputies neared the scene, they saw Clemons run and took him to be the target of the complaint, Olmsted said. It remained unclear whether he actually was that target, the spokesman added.

While being chased, Clemons reached for his waistband, dropped a gun, turned and picked it up and appeared ready to fire, Olmsted said.

Ron Bryant, 35, who said he witnessed the shooting with Hill, expressed certainty that Clemons carried no weapon. Bryant said the deputy who fired the shot had jumped out of the patrol car and fell as he was giving chase, drawing laughter from scores of Labor Day picnickers.

The deputy then stood and immediately fired, Bryant claimed.

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“It was crazy,” he said.

Tempers flared and bystanders threw dirt in the face of the deputy who did the shooting, Bryant added. He said Clemons’ wife rushed to the body and said, “You shot him over a can of beer!”

Joe Clemons, 32, a brother of the victim, said Clemons had brought his four children to the park for Labor Day. Clemons, who worked at a chemical company in Carson, was not involved in any gangs and did not carry a weapon, the brother said.


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