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Off-Duty Officer Kills Man After Traffic Incident

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 26-year-old man was shot and killed by an off-duty Long Beach police officer who was trying to detain him after he reportedly drove his pickup truck toward another motorist in a threatening way.

Jody Dee Davis was shot twice in the torso Tuesday night by an unidentified officer who had heard a commotion outside his Cypress home, police and neighbors said.

Davis, who also lives in the neighborhood, was not armed and had been drinking before becoming embroiled in a traffic dispute, Cypress Police Lt. John Schaefer said.

The officer, a patrol officer with the Long Beach Police Department for 3 1/2 years, is on paid administrative leave. His name is being withheld pending completion of an investigation, Long Beach Sgt. Randy Hausauer said.

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“In general, if an officer is a witness to a felony crime where there’s an immediate danger to a person or property, they have the authority to get involved,” Hausauer said. “They’re police officers, and we tell them to use their common sense where the safety of the public and of themselves is of the utmost importance.”

The shooting occurred at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, a short time after Davis and the driver of a Cadillac convertible almost collided near the corner of Bloomfield Street and Cerritos Avenue.

An argument erupted between Davis and the Cadillac driver, and Davis then “drove his white Chevrolet pickup directly at the motorist,” Cypress Police Sgt. Larry Jordan said. He did not identify the Cadillac driver.

Still behind the wheel, Davis proceeded to make U-turns, encircling the convertible in a “reckless way” and then moved into ongoing traffic, Jordan and witnesses said. Davis’ truck came to a stop along the east curb on Bloomfield Street, Jordan said.

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The off-duty Long Beach officer, who was in his house nearby, came outside because of the ruckus, police and neighbors said.

Witnesses told investigators the officer approached the pickup and found Davis lying in the cab. The officer identified himself and ordered Davis to get out, police said. The pickup driver stepped out of the car and walked toward the officer, who planned to detain him, according to Jordan.

“The officer kept telling him to ‘stop right there’ but he kept on going,” said an 18-year-old relative of the convertible driver, who witnessed the shooting as he stood on a sidewalk a few yards away. He spoke on condition that his name be withheld.

“As [Davis] was taking his fourth step, the officer shot him twice. At that time, he turned around and went down on both knees,” the relative said.

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The witness said the officer then ordered Davis to lie down on the ground, at which time Davis fell over on his back.

Davis pleaded guilty in 1994 to felony charges of possessing and selling methamphetamine, and was sentenced to 120 days in Orange County Jail, court records show.

He also had three speeding tickets and was cited in a fourth incident for driving recklessly across a divided highway, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Neighbors said Wednesday that they had had previous problems with Davis’ driving and had tried to talk to him about slowing down.

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“Everybody’s yelled at him about the way he drives through here,” said Ellen Beardsley, 49, who has three children. “And he hasn’t changed.”

Beardsley, who lives a few yards from the shooting scene, said she was in her house with her children when she heard “a bunch of screeching and yelling” out front. She went upstairs to check on her daughter and heard several shots.

She looked outside and saw a neighbor’s ex-husband--the Cadillac driver involved in the altercation with Davis--on a cellular phone calling police. The Cadillac driver had been in the neighborhood to take his daughter to dinner, Beardsley and the relative said.

Two neighbors said they saw Davis drinking beer while working on his truck about two hours earlier, and police confirmed that he had been drinking before the shooting.

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Tuesday’s death is the third fatal shooting in Orange County involving a police officer in two months.

Unlike the two previous shootings, Tuesday’s incident involved an officer who was off duty and did not have police reinforcements, leaving him more vulnerable, authorities said.

Jim Newman, a criminal justice professor at Rio Hondo Academy in Whittier, one of the largest police academies in the state, said he usually advises recruits to use their own judgment in determining whether to become involved while off duty.

“It’s a difficult problem that officers face,” he said. “Obviously, when you’re off duty, you are limited to your street clothes and you don’t have all of your safety equipment with you. One of the questions you have to consider is whether the other person understands that you’re a police officer.”

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A handful of police officers from other departments interviewed Wednesday said that in some cases it’s better not to get involved. Some departments stress that officers should avoid off-duty conflicts unless someone’s life is endangered, the officers said.

Hausauer, of the Long Beach police, said the department prefers that uniformed officers handle conflicts if possible.

“But that’s not always the case and the off-duty officer has to take immediate action to prevent the loss of life or serious injuries, which sometimes means the use of deadly force,” he said.


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