LA County sheriff's deputies looking for a woman who failed to show up for a court-mandated work program on Tuesday inexplicably became witnesses to a man shooting at them and then himself while walking his daughter to school.
The deputies were attached to the agency's Work Release Non-Compliance Team, according to a report by City News Service, when they confronted a man near the intersection of Sunset Street and Pine Avenue at about 10 a.m., apparently to ask him if he knew the woman's location.
That's when things took a bizarre turn, according to the deputies.
"Sheriff's detectives said the man suddenly pulled a handgun from his rear pocket and fired once at the deputies, collapsed, and shot himself with his own gun," CNS reported. Deputies claim they recovered an unspecified weapon at the scene.
The man apparently survived the self-inflicted gunshot but was taken to the hospital where he was described as being in "grave" condition. His daughter was reunited with her mother, the injured man's girlfriend. If it seems odd that a man would shoot himself in front of his daughter on the way to school, then it should come as little surprise that witnesses are already disputing that story.
According to one witness, he heard "about six shots" and that police "got him in the head.''
Another witness, CNS reports, stated that "the young girl witnessed the whole thing," while yet others claimed the man was trying to protect the child. None of the witnesses said they saw the man holding a weapon.
To at least one observer, Matthew Pappas, a candidate for Long Beach City Attorney, the whole matter could be cleared up if the deputies were wearing cameras on their uniforms.
"If officers were wearing uniform cameras when the shooting took place, we'd almost certainly know what happened," Pappas told the Weekly. "In fact, if they were wearing cameras, there might well have been no shooting at all."
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Although the apparent officer-involved shooting involved LA sheriff's deputies rather than Long Beach police, Pappas believes what happened reflects a culture of impunity that has been tolerated for too long at city hall. Referencing a string of troubling shootings in the city, especially that involving Douglas Zerby, who was killed by police while supposedly wielding a garden hose nozzle in a threatening manner, Pappas claims "the City Attorney's office is perpetuating a culture of "shoot now, lie later."
Adds Pappas, "It is time for that culture to change."
Send your story tips to the author, Nick Schou.