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Death Outside Caan’s Room Was Accidental, Police Say : Inquiry: After his knocks failed to rouse the sleeping actor, the victim apparently climbed onto a fire escape. He fell eight floors.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 25-year-old West Hollywood man apparently lost his footing and tumbled to his death outside a Westwood apartment where actor James Caan was staying, homicide investigators said Monday.

Mark Alan Schwartz accidentally fell about 4 a.m. Saturday as he tried to climb into the eighth-floor apartment balcony of a friend from an adjacent fire escape, Los Angeles police said.

Caan said in an interview that he slept through the incident.

Police said Schwartz arrived at the Wilshire Boulevard building in a taxicab and discovered that he did not have money for the fare.

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Building employees told police that Schwartz was last seen entering the elevator in the lobby, presumably planning to return to pay the fare. But shortly thereafter, the lobby attendant reported hearing a loud “thumping noise” coming from outside the complex.

Schwartz apparently had knocked on the door in an attempt to wake Caan, police said, but was unsuccessful. Then he climbed out on the fire escape.

“It appears to be accidental,” said Officer Rigo Romero. “Based on the circumstances, Mr. Schwartz lost his footing and fell to his death.”

A Los Angeles County coroner’s spokesman said an autopsy had not been completed, but initial findings indicated that Schwartz had died from the fall. The results of alcohol and drug tests will not be available for several days.

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Investigators said the unit belongs to a mutual friend, who was not home at the time, of Caan and Schwartz. Caan told police that Schwartz was a casual acquaintance who had visited briefly during the early evening hours Friday.

Caan told police he did not see Schwartz again and was unaware that he had attempted to get into the apartment.

Cann was questioned by Los Angeles police Saturday as a witness to what authorities initially described as a possible murder.

Caan told The Times that he was awakened Saturday morning by police knocking at the door.

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“It was certainly a rude awakening,” Caan said. “They had their guns pointed at me. . . . It was like a Columbo script. . . . It’s ludicrous. You don’t kill someone and go back to sleep.”

Caan said he had gone to the apartment to read scripts in private. He said that when he went to bed, he turned the phone ringer off so that he would not be disturbed.

“I was staying in the back room of the apartment and I couldn’t hear anything,” said Caan, 53, who has a residence in Bel-Air. “I feel sorry for the kid and his folks.”

Caan said he had been told by Schwartz’s friends that he had been drinking that night.

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“He had been drinking and that’s why he took a cab,” Caan said. “His friend put him in a cab and sent him home. Everybody suffers when something like this happens.”


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