Officers Kill Man in Santa Monica

Times Staff Writers

Santa Monica police shot and killed a 21-year-old man early Monday near a nightclub after he fled from officers and then turned toward them while reportedly carrying a handgun, police said.

It was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Los Angeles County over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Shortly after midnight, Santa Monica officers were sent to Club Twenty Twenty at 2020 Wilshire Blvd. to deal with complaints of a “large fight,” said Lt. Frank Fabrega.


When they arrived, Fabrega said, a witness told them that a man was armed with a handgun, and when the officers tried to detain the man, he fled on foot.

The officers chased the man, identified by the county coroner’s office as Christopher Lamont Hunter of Los Angeles, and when he began to turn toward them, they could see he was carrying a handgun, Fabrega said. “Officers, fearing for their safety, shot the suspect,” he said. A gun was found nearby, he said. Paramedics pronounced Hunter dead at the scene.

Hunter’s father, Milton, said he went to the scene Monday morning and witnesses told him that his son raised his hands before being shot and that they did not see a gun in his son’s hands.

He said his son was on probation for breaking into a car but would not have confronted police. “When he saw trouble, he started getting out,” Milton Hunter said. “He didn’t hang around.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is investigating, said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. She declined comment on the investigation.

Police officials did not name the officers involved in the incident. An autopsy was expected to be conducted Monday.

The officer-involved shooting came just days after Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts left the department after 15 years because he was named to an executive position in law enforcement at Los Angeles International Airport.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, authorities were investigating the death of a man who was shot by police in South Los Angeles after he fled a stolen sport utility vehicle.

The incident occurred about 6 p.m. Sunday, when a Los Angeles Police Department officer and his partner spotted a stolen vehicle and followed it to the 900 block of 84th Street.

A male passenger, who the officer said had a gun in his possession, jumped out and ran.

The man was chased down and ended up in a struggle on the ground with the two officers when his gun went off, police said. One of the officers then fired at the man, who was killed. His identity had not been released Monday.

Neither of the officers was hurt. A woman driving the SUV was arrested several blocks away.

Meanwhile, in Pasadena, authorities were investigating whether a woman was shot and killed by police or by the man driving the car in which she was a passenger.

Pasadena police responded early Sunday to a call from a woman reporting that a man had fired shots at her and her friends from a vehicle. While police were taking a report, the car returned and the driver started firing a gun, police said. One of the officers fired at the suspect, Walter Villanueva, 23, of Altadena, who drove away.

Officers followed the vehicle until it stopped. Inside they found a passenger, Erica Hindman, 21, of Pasadena, dying from a gunshot wound.

Villanueva was arrested on suspicion of murder.

“The source of the victim’s injuries is unclear at this time; however, the possibility that she was struck by a police round is part of the investigation,” police officials said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives were investigating the shooting of a 14-year-old boy who died early Monday in South Gate while being rushed to the hospital by his friends.

The shooting occurred about 3 a.m. in the 8100 block of State Street, where a gunman walked up to the victim, Irvin Manuel Diaz of Los Angeles, as he stood on the sidewalk and began firing.

The teenager was struck several times in the upper body, said Deputy Ban Nguyen. Investigators said the shooting appears to be gang-related.

The victim was being taken to the hospital by friends when their vehicle was stopped by South Gate police for speeding several blocks from the shooting scene. Officers saw the victim bleeding from gunshot wounds and paramedics were called. Diaz was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators also were continuing their investigation into the shooting death of a woman who was found wounded about 4:30 a.m. Monday by a neighbor on the sidewalk in the 2500 block of East 111th Street in the Willowbrook section of unincorporated Los Angeles County.

Paramedics were called and the victim, Dana Reed, 46, of Lynwood, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Times staff writer Rich Connell contributed to this report.