To the family of Jaime Jaurequi, it was not a law enforcement necessity but cold-blooded murder.
In the first place, they say, Jaurequi wouldn't have done anything wrong that police could have stopped him for. And the last thing he would do, the family says, is to try to kill the officers pursuing him, which is why officers say they had to shoot him.
"It was murder," said 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 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 in an assault with a deadly weapon case 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, 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 concerns about increasingly crowded streets and the potential danger to other motorists and pedestrians. But a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter continued to track Jaurequi as he pulled into a dead-end street, the 8600 block of Wystone Avenue in Northridge.
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 reversed into a police car and lunged toward a group of officers who opened fire. Witnesses said they heard from 25 to 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 LAPD officers in the Valley, in which three suspects were killed and a fourth wounded in less than 48 hours.
About 90 minutes after Jaurequi was shot, an officer killed a parolee in Tarzana who reportedly had driven off, at speeds up to 70 mph, with the officer stuck partially inside the car.
On Monday evening in West Hills, an officer killed a man in an incident similar to the Tarzana shooting. The officer said that as he tried to arrest a man in a car, the suspect drove off with the officer halfway through the window on the passenger side. Earlier Monday, North Hollywood officers shot and wounded a man, also a prison parolee, who allegedly had opened fire on them as they responded to a domestic complaint.
As Jaurequi's family struggled to deal with his death, they also raised numerous questions about the shooting. They said Jaurequi had left work to pick up his younger brother before coming home to eat.
He had been paid on Saturday and was eager to give his mother money for the mortgage payment on the house they bought together and for food, his sisters and brother said.
Family members say they learned of his death on Sunday evening, watching the late television news. They said police never came to their home to inform them, and that their father, Alfredo, had searched the neighborhood for his son. He even went to two police stations on Sunday evening but heard nothing.
On Monday, Alfredo Jaurequi said he went to his son's employer, Distinctive Detailing, a car improvement center, where his son had worked for about 18 months.
"My son's boss said, 'Your son is dead,' " Alfredo Jaurequi said Tuesday, his eyes tearing.
"He was a boy who just goes to work, comes home, eats, goes to sleep and goes to work again," said his brother, Alfredo Jr., 18. "I love him a lot. It's hard losing him."
"He would always pull over," said his sister, Luzmila, 19. "There wasn't anything he would be afraid of."
Alfredo Jaurequi, a landscaper, says he will hire an attorney and conduct his own investigation. But police officials blamed the suspects in each of the four cases, saying officers are being forced to defend themselves.
Capt. Val Paniccia, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division, in the case of Jaurequi, said, "If he hadn't rammed the police car, the officers wouldn't have been in danger."