Two El Segundo officers stable after theater shooting

Times Staff Writer

Two El Segundo police officers were reported in stable condition at a hospital Saturday after a shootout inside a movie theater that left a 24-year-old man dead and a bystander injured, police and city officials said.

Police identified the two officers as Lt. Raymond Garcia, who was shot in the jaw, and Officer Scott O'Connor, who was shot in the upper torso. Neither man had life-threatening injuries, but Garcia underwent surgery, and both were in the intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance, said Mayor Kelly McDowell.

"These wounds in each case were within inches of being fatal," McDowell said. "They're the luckiest people in the world."

The shootout occurred about 10:15 p.m. Friday at the Pacific Theatres' Beach Cities Stadium 16 on Nash Street.

"My understanding is that it began inside the theater and then trickled out," said sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Maribel Rizo.

A Sheriff's Department statement said the trouble started with a dispute between a man and theater employees. The on-duty El Segundo police officers were already at the theater and were told by an employee about the dispute.

The officers had begun to search the man when he pulled a handgun and began shooting, officials said. "The officers were both struck by gunfire but were able to return fire, striking the suspect," the statement said.

The incident marked the first time in 51 years that any El Segundo police officer had been shot on duty, McDowell said. He said the injured bystander was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, apparently with a bullet wound in a leg. A spokesman for the hospital said a man wounded at the theater had been brought in but was transferred to another facility.

The county coroner's office identified the dead man as Jonathan Taylor but did not release further details.

Taylor was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff's statement said.

Homicide detectives have determined that no other suspects were involved, Sheriff's Deputy Luis Castro said.

El Segundo police referred media calls to the Sheriff's Department, which is investigating because it was an officer-involved shooting and the city police have no homicide division, Castro said.

The beach city just south of Los Angeles International Airport had a 2007 estimated population of 17,076. Its Police Department staff of 108 includes 69 sworn positions, according to the city website. El Segundo is a hub for aerospace firms and corporate offices.

The last time a city officer was shot was in 1957, when two officers were slain by a drifter during a traffic stop on Rosecrans Avenue, McDowell said.

That case drew national attention in 2003 when the killer was arrested in South Carolina, admitted to the murders and was sentenced to two life terms.

The Friday night violence was highly unusual for El Segundo, McDowell said.

"The size and speed of the response to this crime indicates how safe we keep this community," he said, estimating that 100 to 200 law enforcement officers responded.

Agencies included police departments in Los Angeles, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Irwindale as well as the Gardena police SWAT team, LAX police and sheriff's deputies, McDowell said.

A team of city and police representatives visited the two wounded officers Saturday morning. McDowell said that Garcia was unconscious after surgery and that O'Connor, who suffered a broken collarbone and has a bullet lodged in the back of his shoulder, would require surgery but could be released as early as today.

The mayor described O'Connor as "alert, in fine spirit . . . and wanting out, which is a good sign."


Times research librarian John Tyrrell contributed to this report.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Monday, April 14, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 66 words Type of Material: Correction El Segundo police: An article in Sunday's California section about the shooting injuries of two El Segundo police officers at a movie theater said the shootings Friday night were the first of officers in that department since 1957. They were not. El Segundo Officer Chris Barrett was shot and paralyzed in May 1979 while responding to a disturbance at a bar, Sgt. Jaime Bermudez said Sunday.
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