A police officer fired a single shot and killed a father who was holding a screwdriver to his 7-year-old son’s throat, police and witnesses said Tuesday.
Jesus Espinosa, 35, died instantly as his family watched the confrontation Monday night in a bedroom of their North Hills apartment, according to police. The boy, Juan Galvan, escaped without injuries.
Los Angeles Police Officer Yehuda Packer, 33, a seven-year department veteran assigned to the Devonshire station, fired his 9-millimeter pistol, striking Espinosa in the cheek, investigators said.
Espinosa’s 15-year old son, Luis Galvan, said his father twice ignored the officers’ commands to “drop it.”
Luis, who witnessed the shooting, said in an interview that Espinosa told officers after their second command: “No! Shoot me!”
Police responded to a call of a man with a knife about 10:30 p.m. and found Espinosa holding the boy in a headlock in a rear bedroom of the family’s apartment in the 8700 block of Orion Avenue.
Espinosa had come home drunk and assaulted his wife, Graciela Galvan, earlier in the day, according to police and family members.
Officers were met at the door by Luis, who told them his mother and brother were being held at knifepoint in the bedroom, police said. Luis said he told the officers that Espinosa had threatened to hurt the boy if police interfered.
The officers entered the bedroom, saw Espinosa holding his son in a headlock and ordered him to let go of the child, said Lt. William Hall, who heads the unit that investigates officer-involved shootings for the Police Department.
Espinosa ignored the officers’ commands, and allegedly “pointed what appeared to be a knife at the boy’s throat,” Hall said. The officers believed Espinosa was about to stab the boy, he added.
After he was shot, Espinosa collapsed on the bed, dropping the weapon. Officers discovered it was a screwdriver.
Police said Espinosa had been arrested at least twice before for allegedly beating his wife.
“Apparently he had a history of coming home drunk and beating his wife going back six years,” Hall said.
Family members and neighbors agreed that Espinosa, an unemployed construction worker, had a drinking problem and abused his wife when he was drunk.
“When he was drunk, you couldn’t talk to him,” said Jennifer Duran, manager of the Parthenia-Orion Apartments where the couple lived. “He was drunk most of the time so there was no talking to him.”
On Tuesday, Espinosa’s wife and her three children moved their belongings out of the apartment. Galvan said she could not stand to live there any more.
With Luis translating, Galvan said that she and Espinosa had been fighting all Monday morning, and that he got rough with her in the afternoon.
She said family members believe police were too quick to shoot.
“It happened too fast,” she said through her son.