San Fernando Valley : Family Challenges Police Account of Fatal Shooting

Though police say otherwise, the family of Jaime Jaurequi calls it murder.

In the first place, they say, Jaurequi would not have done anything wrong that police could have stopped him for. And the last thing he would do, they add, is to try to kill officers pursuing him, which is why police say he was shot.

"It was murder," contended Patricia Ramirez, Jaurequi's aunt. "There's just no reason for this. There was no reason for them to shoot--what?--36 bullets into the car."

But Los Angeles police offer a markedly different account of the events that unfolded Saturday evening in Northridge, where Jaurequi was shot by five officers. They say Jaurequi, 23, matched the description of a suspect wanted for assault with a deadly weapon and that Jaurequi had refused to stop when officers pulled in behind him with red lights flashing and siren sounding.

Rather, they say, he fled, running stop signs and red lights and speeding through streets in the West San Fernando Valley. Police pursued Jaurequi, who was driving his uncle's 1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, for about 40 minutes.

A police supervisor then called off the pursuit because of concern about danger to motorists and pedestrians. But a police helicopter continued to track Jaurequi as he pulled into a dead-end street, the 8600 block of Wystone Avenue.

When officers arrived, police said, Jaurequi tried to use the car to ram a heavy wrought-iron fence at the Park Parthenia apartment complex. They say he then drove in reverse into a police car and lunged toward a group of officers, who opened fire. Witnesses said they heard between 25 and 30 gunshots, and some said they counted 36 chalk marks indicating spent shell casings.

As it turns out, Jaurequi was not the suspect police were seeking in the assault case. Nor did he have a weapon in the car.

His death was the first of a series of shootings by Los Angeles police in the Valley, in which three suspects were killed and a fourth wounded in less than 48 hours.

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