The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has found that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were justified in fatally shooting a man after a lengthy car chase, carjacking and standoff in which four people were held hostage inside a restaurant in Downey.
Prosecutors concluded that sheriff’s Sgt. Kamal Ahmad and Deputies Daniel Leon, Darell Edwards and Gonzalo Galvez “acted lawfully in self-defense and in the defense of others, and used reasonable force in apprehending a dangerous fleeing felon” when they shot 41-year-old Eddie Tapia inside Chris’ & Pitts’ BBQ Restaurant on Sept. 10, 2015.
The nine-page report on the shooting notes that the evidence shows that Tapia stole a car, led police on a high-speed chase, carjacked a woman when the stolen vehicle became disabled and crashed into another vehicle following a PIT maneuver by a California Highway Patrol officer.
“Rather than submit to police authority, Tapia fired his weapon while exiting the car. He fled into a crowded restaurant and seized control of the premises by force,” the report says. “Tapia held four men hostage and was observed waving the pistol while interacting with a hostage. Even after being shot, during crisis team intervention Tapia clung to the pistol and demonstrated an intent to resist.”
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The District Attorney’s Office also determined that sheriff’s deputies acted in “lawful self-defense” in two other fatal shootings — the Dec. 10, 2017, killing of Frank Lopez in Artesia and the June 27, 2019, killing of Paul Rea in East Los Angeles.
Lopez, 48, of Placentia, was fatally shot by Deputy Christopher Cadman after cutting Cadman and a female sheriff’s deputy with a knife during a struggle after he abandoned his vehicle on a lawn and was found hiding among trash cans following a call of a suspicious person looking into cars in the neighborhood, according to a DA’s Office document.
Rea was shot by Deputy Hector Saavedra following a traffic stop of a vehicle in which the 18-year-old Monterey Park man was a passenger, according to the District Attorney’s memorandum on the shooting. Prosecutors noted that “Rea punched Saavedra in the temple with such force that Saavedra sustained a concussion” and that Rea reached into his waistband for a gun as he fled from Saavedra, according to the document.
Meanwhile, prosecutors also concluded that Los Angeles Police Officers Christopher Montague and Fred Sigman were “legally justified” in firing their service weapons at 32-year-old Jesse Murillo following a 911 call of a family disturbance in Canoga Park on Dec. 23, 2017.
The document on Murillo’s shooting death notes that he “sprinted in the direction of Sigman” while holding what the officers reasonably believed was a machete but wound up being a metal tool.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey — who is seeking a third term as the county’s top prosecutor — has come under fire from some activists for not prosecuting enough cases involving shootings by law enforcement officers. In a statement earlier this week, Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope and Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said “Lacey and her failure to protect us has demonstrated she is more concern with protecting abusive and killer cops.”
The District Attorney’s Office noted that it has reviewed 252 fatal shootings by law enforcement officers between December 2012, when Lacey was sworn into office, and May 31 of this year, with one criminal case being filed in December 2018. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Liu is awaiting trial on a charge of voluntary manslaughter for an on-duty fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist at a Norwalk gas station in February 2016.
The District Attorney’s Office also noted that criminal charges have been filed by Lacey against more than 200 law enforcement officers for crimes including murder while off-duty, sexual assault, domestic violence and financial fraud, and that 24 law enforcement officers have been charged with excessive use of force.
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