A police officer shot and killed a 32-year-old parolee late Tuesday night when the man reached for his waistband during a confrontation in a motel room, police said Wednesday.
John Anthony Kelly, who died at the scene, was sprayed in the face twice with pepper spray but continued “to advance toward officers,” Lt. Robert Helton said.
The pepper spray “appeared to have absolutely no effect” on Kelly, Helton said. He “began to turn sideways while reaching for his waistband with his right hand.”
Both officers drew their weapons, and one fired twice, police said. They said a small knife was found under Kelly’s body when it was moved by coroner’s investigators.
Police said they had been called to the California Palms Motel, 901 S. Harbor Blvd., twice on Tuesday night on reports that Kelly had assaulted his 27-year-old girlfriend, Shirley Coyle, who lived with him in a room along with 33-year-old John Deljiacco.
Several witnesses at the motel said Wednesday that they saw Kelly drag the woman by the hair back to their room during an argument. When police first arrived at 8:36 p.m., Kelly escaped through the kitchen window, authorities said, and when he returned to the room about two hours later, Deljiacco called police.
Coyle said Kelly, who had an extensive criminal record, had slapped her around and had been using drugs earlier in the day. But she said he was ready to surrender to police.
“I’m despondent and I’m angry because I feel there’s been a grave injustice,” Coyle said. “He was wrong to slap me but what they did was wrong too.”
Deljiacco, Coyle and her mother, who all were in the room at the time of the shooting, disputed part of the police version of what happened.
“John’s a big guy, an ex-convict with tattoos, and police knew he had violated parole,” said Coyle’s mother, Friedel Mehrhof. “They knew he wasn’t a choirboy. The officer had his gun out already; he was definitely prepared and wasn’t going to take any chances.”
Coyle said Kelly did not have a knife in his hand and that police “definitely did not use pepper spray on him.”
She said Kelly had threatened to kill himself with a paring knife before police arrived. She said she took the knife and put it in a crate in the bathroom, where they were arguing. Police then arrived and ordered her out of the room, she said. When Kelly was shot, he fell into the bathtub.
Coyle said she and Kelly met shortly after he was released from prison about three months ago. She said both were in drug recovery programs and had been living in the motel room for three weeks.
As is routine, the shooting is being investigated by the district attorney’s office. Police did not release the name of the officer involved.