Levette Crespo shot her husband, Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, to stop him from beating their 19-year-old son, law enforcement sources told The Times on Wednesday.
Authorities said the Crespos' 19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened Tuesday afternoon as the couple argued in their Bell Gardens condominium, escalating the dispute into a physical fight between father and son.
During the ensuing fight, Levette Crespo, 43, got a gun and fatally shot her husband, said Los Angeles County sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.
Under questioning, Daniel Crespo Jr. backed up claims by Levette Crespo that she shot her husband to save her child's life, according to law enforcement sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the investigation.
The son was hospitalized for injuries to his face, which occurred during the struggle, authorities said.
Both were released after questioning Tuesday. Meanwhile, detectives continue to gather forensic evidence and investigate the family's history.
The case will eventually be presented to county prosecutors for a decision on whether to press charges. But ultimately, "favorable statements from the kid really make building an otherwise un-witnessed case really hard to make," said one source familiar with the investigation.
Authorities have not released a possible motive for the shooting, but Daniel Crespo's brother, William, told KTLA-TV that the couple had been arguing over finances Tuesday.
William Crespo recalled his brother telling him: "'She's over here fighting that I spend too much money.'"
He also described his brother as being "really tired" after having worked days and nights.
"She won't let him sleep," William Crespo said of his brother's wife, Levette.
Daniel Crespo, 45, was elected to the City Council in 2001. Aside from his duties as mayor, he worked as a Los Angeles County probation officer for more than a decade, according to the city.
Staff writers Ryan Parker and Ruben Vives contributed reporting.