Was a burglar in a gunfight shot to death by police from a hovering helicopter?
If so, it would be the first time deadly police gunfire came from the air.
An autopsy was scheduled Wednesday on the body of a suspect who was fatally wounded in an officer-involved shooting at the end of a stand-off in a Tujunga home will reveal how many times the man was struck by gunfire and whether it came from officers on the ground or in a helicopter, police said.
Monday’s incident marked the first time that SWAT officers have opened fire from a helicopter hovering over a scene, the Los Angeles Police Department said. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Tuesday it appeared the man was struck by gunfire from the air.
The fatal shooting came at the end of a near six-hour stand-off that began around 9 a.m. Monday after police received a “hot prowler” call from a woman who lived in the home in the 11300 block of Alethea Drive. The woman escaped the home from a bedroom window and warned police that there were several guns inside, prompting the LAPD to respond.
The man, who allegedly shot at police, was flushed out of the home with tear gas and fled out the back of the residence where he tumbled down a ravine. LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar said the man was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity has not been released.
Experts have said such shootings from the air are justified only in the most desperate situations and when other tactics might be more dangerous, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The house was at a top of a hill, surrounded by brush and debris, which Beck told the newspaper created a “very difficult” location for SWAT officers, contributing to the decision to bring in the officers trained to fire from a helicopter.
“The suspect definitely had high ground at all of the ground officers, was firing indiscriminately at them and actually fired at the helicopter, we believe,” Beck said.
Beck told police commissioners Tuesday it appeared that department officials acted appropriately when deciding to put SWAT officers inside the helicopter, saying that a situation requires very specific criteria that have to be met regarding terrain, weather, the threat to the community and other options, the Times reported.
—City News Service
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