Prosecutors Friday mulled whether to bring murder charges against a 45-year-old apartment manager who allegedly killed a fleeing car burglar, while police identified the shooting victim as Henry Lemus, 40, of Hollywood.
Daniel McDonald, 45, fired an estimated seven shots at Lemus and a still unknown accomplice early Thursday as the pair fled from the area of McDonald's apartment building after they were reportedly caught breaking into a car, police said.
Moments before the shooting, the burglars had fought off McDonald's 24-year-old son, inflicting minor wounds with a screwdriver to his hand, but police say McDonald was unaware of this when he opened fire.
A few hours after the shooting, someone dumped Lemus off at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where he died, and McDonald was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Lemus' brother and a roommate declined to talk about him with reporters Friday.
It was the second instance this year of a citizen in the eastern San Fernando Valley fatally shooting someone in a confrontation over street crime. In January, William Masters of Sun Valley killed an 18-year-old graffiti vandal Masters said had tried to rob him, sparking a national debate over crime and self-defense.
Critics complained that Masters, who is white, received preferential treatment from authorities who did not value the life of the Latino tagger. Those who sided with Masters, many of whom expressed disgust with graffiti, portrayed him as an honest citizen who used legitimate force to defend himself from a street thug.
Although there are key differences between the two shootings--in the current case, the victim was fleeing when he was shot, police stress--the connection remained on the minds of LAPD North Hollywood homicide investigators and Deputy Dist. Atty. Bob Cohen, who handled the Masters case.
Authorities ruled the Masters shooting was self-defense and declined to file felony charges, though Masters was later convicted of misdemeanor gun-carrying charges and sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to give up his gun collection. Masters said this week that he has turned over the weapons to a friend for safekeeping until his sentence ends.
Authorities must charge McDonald by Monday or free him from the Van Nuys jail, where he remained Friday on $1 million bail.
Police Detective Mike Coffey said police have received several calls from people in support of McDonald--though far fewer than they got from supporters of Masters, who became a cause celebre on the talk-show circuit.
"I hope citizens will learn from this," Coffey said. "When they arm themselves with deadly force they never know when things are going to go from bad to worse."
Coffey said McDonald had shouted for Lemus and his accomplice to stop, and when they did not, fired. He described McDonald as upset.
"It's not fun dealing with this," Coffey said. "It's a tragic situation for everyone involved."
Tamaki is a Times staff writer and Riccardi is a correspondent.