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Glendale officer temporarily reassigned after opening fire on robbery suspect in mall parking lot

Authorities are investigating what led a Glendale officer to fire four shots at a robbery suspect on Wednesday in the parking lot of an Eagle Rock mall.

The incident began around 1:50 p.m. when an officer from the Glendale Police Department was responding to a cellphone robbery that reportedly took place in front of the Target store in Eagle Rock Plaza.

Someone at the mall pointed out the suspect to the officer who soon chased after the man.

Sgt. Dan Suttles, a department spokesman, said surveillance camera footage from the mall showed the suspect getting into a parked vehicle, which then “backed out at a high rate of speed at our officer.”

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The officer fired four shots at the vehicle. However, they did not strike the suspect or anyone else in the vicinity.

The officer has since been placed on a temporary administrative assignment. Suttles declined to say how long the officer has been with the department.

He added that the officer hasn’t been interviewed since the day of the shooting beyond giving a public-safety statement to investigators.

He was asked “how many rounds were fired, in what direction were they fired and was anyone injured.”

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Suttles added that more in-depth questioning will take place during an administrative investigation into the incident.

He also said officers can use deadly force if they feel that their life or the lives of others are in danger, but he couldn’t say for certain if that applied to Wednesday’s shooting.

Suttles also said that officers are trained to be mindful of their environment and nearby civilians when considering deadly force.

Although the mall is located in the Los Angeles Police Department’s jurisdiction, Suttles said the 911 call was routed to Glendale police instead.

The suspect was able to flee the mall despite being shot at, and his vehicle was found abandoned near the 2 Freeway at York Boulevard.

Suttles said police later received a call from someone in Eagle Rock saying a relative had come home saying the cops had shot at him.

“We went over to that house and negotiated a peaceful surrender with the man,” Suttles said.

The man was identified as 28-year-old Joseph Vincent Esposito Jr. of Los Angeles.

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He was arrested on suspicion of robbery and was released several hours later after posting $50,000 bail.

The police activity caused a portion of the mall’s parking lot to be closed off for several hours, stranding many shoppers.

Stephen Sulzberger said he had gone to Target around 2 p.m. for what was supposed to be a quick trip to buy batteries.

When he came out of the store, police had not yet cordoned off the area.

“When I went over to my vehicle and put my stuff in, I saw a big yellow police line go across my trunk,” he said. “Then an officer told me to get back to the store.”

Sulzberger said he spent the next several hours wandering the mall to kill time.

Police did allow families with young children and people with medical conditions to access their cars and leave the area.

“I only have a load of laundry waiting for me,” Sulzberger said.

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andy.nguyen@latimes.com

Twitter: @Andy_Truc


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