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Police Actions in Rampage Justified, Says D.A.'s Report : Crime: Findings conclude that Oxnard officers had no choice but to fire repeatedly at Alan Winterbourne after he had killed four people.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Oxnard police officers who fatally wounded Alan Winterbourne outside a Ventura unemployment office last December had no choice but to shoot him repeatedly to end his murderous rampage, county prosecutors have found.

A report by Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Holmes concluded that the officers were justified when they shot the heavily armed Winterbourne, who had already killed three people at an Oxnard unemployment office and a police officer.

“With the arsenal Winterbourne possessed . . . it takes little imagination to determine how easily Winterbourne could have added to the appalling toll he had already exacted,” Holmes wrote. “Any officer who did not use deadly force to prevent Alan Winterbourne from entering a second (unemployment) office that morning would have been derelict in performing his most fundamental duty--protection of the citizenry.”

Holmes reported that Winterbourne had unsuccessfully applied to the sheriff for a concealed weapons permit, that he had been seriously wounded in the chest at the Oxnard unemployment office near the beginning of his 13-minute rampage, and that he was breathing blood long before he was killed.

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The report noted that the bullet that killed Oxnard Police Officer James O’Brien had first struck a headlight before ricocheting into his head.

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Winterbourne, a 33-year-old computer engineer, had been unemployed for seven years before he snapped without warning last Dec. 2, drove to the Oxnard unemployment office and indiscriminately began shooting employees and their jobless clients.

He discarded a shotgun and fired a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum revolver before being wounded by police, who recognized him as the suspect because he matched a 911 description of being white, long-haired, mustachioed and bearded, the report says.

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In an exchange of gunfire, two shots hit Winterbourne in the chest and shoulder, but he gave no indication of being wounded and the police did not notice, Holmes reported. A mixture of blood and saliva was later found inside Winterbourne’s car, indicating that he was breathing blood after the confrontation.

Winterbourne fled the parking lot in a tan sedan and a trail of police officers chased him toward Ventura.

At the intersection of Victoria Avenue and Olivas Park Road, Winterbourne stopped his car, posted himself behind the driver’s side door, and fired at least two shots at police with a Browning .300-caliber rifle with a scope. One struck the spotlight of a police car and deflected into O’Brien, Holmes wrote.

At the Ventura unemployment office, Winterbourne was felled by a fusillade of gunfire from Oxnard officers as he left his car with a Ruger mini-14 .223-caliber rifle and moved toward the door.

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“The urgency felt by the officers was such that the officer in the lead car fired the shots through his front window of his police unit at Winterbourne,” Holmes wrote. Officers kicked the rifle away from Winterbourne and handcuffed him. The entire rampage lasted just 13 minutes.

A search of his car found 80 rounds of ammunition for the .223-caliber rifle, the .300-caliber rifle and 14 rounds of ammunition, and the .44 caliber handgun and 48 hollow-point rounds.

An autopsy by the Ventura County coroner found that Winterbourne had been shot 11 times and died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, chest, neck, shoulder, arm, leg and foot.

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Irma Lopez, who was seriously wounded at the Oxnard unemployment office, said Monday she agreed that police had to use lethal force to stop the crazed Winterbourne.

“If they hadn’t shot him, he would have gone in there and shot someone,” Lopez said. “And after he shot that officer, they weren’t asking any questions.”

A top Oxnard police officer said he hopes the district attorney’s findings will put the incident in the past.

“This is the conclusion of a very tragic incident,” Assistant Police Chief Tom Cady said. “On behalf of the families and everyone involved in that incident, we’re really glad to close this chapter--not that it will ever be closed completely.”

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