LAPD officers questioned in gunshots outside restaurant

Several Los Angeles police officers are being questioned in connection with an incident in which at least one of them fired a gunshot outside a downtown restaurant, authorities said.

No one was hurt in the incident reported about 2 a.m. Wednesday near Weiland Brewery Restaurant in the 400 block of East 1st Street, according to sources familiar with the investigation who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss details of the inquiry.

Three off-duty officers were outside the restaurant when one of them pulled a gun and fired at least one shot in the direction of a street lamp, according to the sources.

Based on preliminary information, the sources said, investigators believe the officer was impaired after a heavy night of drinking, which, barring additional evidence, was cited as “the primary factor” in the incident.

The officers were not identified. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the department’s 10,000 officers, had no immediate comment on the incident.

In April, league President Paul M. Weber warned officers about the risks of alcohol and provided information on where they could get help in an article in the union’s internal newsletter, the Thin Blue Line.

“Estimates show that alcohol abuse among police officers in the United States is approximately double that of the general population, wherein one in 10 adults abuses alcohol,” Weber wrote. “While the social use of alcohol may be accepted in most professions, excessive drinking by police officers can impair their ability to function properly at work and may result in disciplinary issues.”

Alcohol impairment was cited as a factor in two fatal accidents that claimed the lives of LAPD officers.

In December, Police Officer Kenneth Aragon, a 19-year veteran of the department and a father of five, was killed after several hours of drinking with other officers and guests in a banquet room with a bar on the upper floor of the Los Angeles Police Academy’s main building. LAPD officials said Aragon’s blood-alcohol level was “well over” the legal limit.

Aragon had attended an unofficial but regular get-together known as “payday Wednesday” that had been held every other week at the Elysian Park campus. That event was discontinued in January after Aragon’s death.

In February, off-duty Officer Jacqueline Montalvo, 37, a veteran of the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, died after she swerved into oncoming traffic, causing a chain-reaction auto accident in Diamond Bar, authorities said. The Los Angeles County coroner determined that her blood-alcohol level was 0.18%, more than twice the legal limit for driving.

With those incidents in mind, Police Chief Charlie Beck last month addressed the alcohol problem, which has emerged as a national issue in police circles, in a message to the department’s rank-and-file members.

“Using alcohol to deal with job stress can quickly lead to alcohol abuse and drinking and driving,” Beck wrote. “Statistics from 2006-2008 revealed that on average, 21 department employees, sworn and civilian, are arrested each year for DUI…. When consumption of alcohol leads to abuse and dependence connected to psychological concerns, the effects are seen and felt at home and the workplace.”