It is officially not official Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) policy to hastily fire 100 rounds of ammo into a slow-moving pickup truck being driven in a nonthreatening manner, even if you suspect it might have a fugitive inside.
One year after the Christopher Dorner shootout in Southern California, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the police commission agreed that the eight officers who mistakenly ID’d the fugitive’s car and shot it up shouldn’t have done that and they will be disciplined.
The car, which did not resemble descriptions of the vehicle being sought, turned out to have two Hispanic women, 47-year-old Margi Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, delivering newspapers on their regular early-morning route, rather than a burly African-American ex-cop. The older woman was shot twice in the back and her daughter suffered superficial wounds.
Some of the officers said they thought they saw a gun. Others said they responded to their colleagues’ burst of fire thinking it came from inside the vehicle. According to the Los Angeles Times, those that didn’t have an excuse would be dealt with most harshly.
The incident occurred last February 7, when all of Southern California law enforcement was on alert after Dorner, a former LAPD officer, killed three people and said he was out for revenge on his ex-employer. Nine officers were dispatched to guard the Torrance home of a captain thought to be a possible target. Dorner had just escaped a shootout one county over, in nearby Riverside, killing one officer, and was on the move.
A vehicle similar to Dorner’s was spotted miles from the staked-out house around 4:30 a.m., and when the pickup truck rolled into view less than an hour later the officers were poised. At that point, Carranza tossed a newspaper out of the truck and the resulting thwack reportedly prompted an officer to start shooting. The car sped up and more officers unloaded on it. Unfortunately, they were surrounding the vehicle and their bullets whizzed by each other, increasing the hysteria.
In addition to the 100 or so shells found around the vehicle another 30 or 40 turned up in nearby homes and garages. Dorner turned out to be nowhere in the area. He was killed in another shootout on February 12 at a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains after a harrowing nine days that involved a series of attacks.
Much of the time the authorities were searching for him, Dorner was holed up in another cabin within viewing distance of the Big Bear manhunt command post.
The shootout cost the city $4.2 million when it settled with the two women in April a month after offering to buy them a new truck. Beck did not announce what the officers’ punishment would be.