In an unusual move, the union representing an Orange County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed an unarmed Marine last week is now blaming the Marine for creating "a situation that put his children in danger and ultimately cost him his life," according to a statement released Tuesday.
The statement, which the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs said was based on information gathered from the Sheriff's Department and the unnamed deputy's attorney, purports to offer new details of the Feb. 7 confrontation that resulted in the fatal wounding of Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31, in the dark parking lot of San Clemente High School.
After Loggins crashed through a gate in his GMC Yukon about 4:30 that morning, he left his two daughters, ages 14 and 9, in the vehicle and walked to the athletic field, where he could be heard uttering what the union characterized as "irrational statements."
The deputy, described as a 15-year veteran of the force and a decorated former Marine himself, radioed dispatch to report a "child endangerment situation," the union said.
Other sheriff's personnel arrived and comforted the children, who said their father "had been acting oddly," the statement said. When Loggins abruptly returned to his SUV, he ignored orders not to start the car and instead put it in gear, preparing to drive "and further endanger the children."
The union said the deputy, positioned by the driver's window, fatally shot Loggins as he began to pull the vehicle forward.
"The actions of our deputy clearly prevented serious harm from coming to Loggins' two children and anyone else on the road that morning," union President Tom Dominguez said in the statement.
Loggins' friends and fellow Marines, who said they were baffled by the incident, described him as a deeply devout Christian who often took his family to the track for predawn "prayer walks." Aaron Banks, who served with Loggins and saw him as a mentor, said he didn't believe the union.
"Of course they're going to blame him for his death — why would they admit to murder?" he said. "He would never hurt his daughters. He loved his daughters more than anything."
Banks also noted how statements from the deputy's side had shifted. The Sheriff's Department originally reported the deputy had fired in fear for his life, but now it's saying he fired for the girls' safety.
"I believe they're saying what needs to be said to cover their deputy," Banks said of the union. "They could at least have the dignity to release a statement saying they could have handled it differently. They could have shot the tires out. They could have Tased him.
"How many deputies were there?" he asked. "Putting a bullet in an SUV knowing there were two children inside is safer? Really?"
Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino confirmed that Loggins was not armed. The incident is under investigation by the Orange County district attorney's office.