Bill Beaird wept Friday as he recalled watching live on television as Los Angeles police officers fatally shot his son at the end of a pursuit.
Sometime before the shooting, Beaird said, his son Brian had called to say that police were chasing him. Beaird said he urged his son to pull over. But Brian Beaird kept driving his Corvette at high rates of speed, eventually broadsiding another car Dec. 13 in downtown Los Angeles. The shooting was filmed from TV news helicopters.
The elder Beaird said he watched in shock as his 51-year-old son staggered out of the wrecked Corvette, briefly putting his arms in the air as he walked behind the vehicle to the passenger side, and police opened fire.
“They killed him,” Bill Beaird said, tears welling in his eyes.
Three LAPD officers fired an estimated 22 times at Brian Beaird, who was unarmed. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has put the officers on extended leave pending a final investigation, saying he was “very concerned” by the incident.
Beaird’s father and brother stood outside LAPD headquarters Friday to announce that they had filed a $20-million claim against the city, a legal precursor required when suing a California government entity. An attorney for the Beaird family said that if the city doesn’t reach an agreement, the family would pursue a federal wrongful-death suit.
Bill Beaird described his youngest son as a disabled veteran who was discharged from the National Guard in 1988 after a botched surgery on a brain tumor. The surgery left his son with brain trauma, Beaird said. He could be paranoid, his father said, particularly about police.
John Beaird, the oldest of Bill Beaird’s four sons, said his youngest brother “made a lot of bad decisions that day.” But, he said, the officers should not have shot him.
“I can only imagine how terrified and alone he was in the last moments of his life,” he said.
An investigation into the shooting is underway. The department, which often provides written explanations for police shootings, has provided few details in the case.
After reviewing a preliminary report Thursday, Beck placed the three officers who opened fire on extended leave pending the final use-of-force and criminal investigations.
“After hearing the preliminary briefing, I am very concerned about the circumstances that led up to and resulted in this officer-involved shooting,” Beck said in a statement.
Beck said that at least one less-lethal bean bag round was fired at Beaird, but only the officers who fired their guns are being investigated.
Bill Beaird, an Army veteran, said his son followed in his footsteps and joined the military. He said his son would have made a career out of it had it not been for the botched brain surgery.
“He was simply afraid and paranoid of the police, even though he has never been convicted of any felonies,” said Dale Galipo, the family’s attorney. “And that paranoia of the police is one of the reasons why he didn’t pull over.”
Galipo said the shooting was excessive.
“Police officers with respect to deadly force have to justify every shot,” Galipo said. “Usually the story involves he was reaching in his waistband, he had a gun, he had something that looked like a gun. But the problem in this case, none of those stories will work because every step, everybody saw actually what happened on video.”
Brian Beaird bought a home in Oceanside a few years ago, his family said, but often spent time in Los Angeles.
The Dec. 13 incident began about 9:30 p.m. as a suspected drunk- or reckless-driver pursuit in Cudahy by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. Los Angeles police took over the chase when it reached city limits.
With several LAPD cars following his Corvette, Beaird crashed into a vehicle at Olympic Boulevard and Los Angeles Street, sending it into a fire hydrant. Police said one of the occupants of the other vehicle suffered serious injuries but provided no other details.
Beaird’s mangled Corvette spun to a rest on the street corner. He tried to pull away but then abandoned the vehicle and got out, walking around to the sidewalk on the passenger side. Roughly 20 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Newton Division surrounded him.
Television footage shows Beaird briefly putting his arms in the air with his back to officers, then grabbing his stomach as he fell. He died less than an hour later at California Hospital Medical Center, authorities said.