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Off-duty cop shoots man trying to steal car, police say [Updated]

October 31, 2011 | 12:32 pm

168704.ME.1031.OIS.01
An off-duty Santa Ana police officer confronted two men Monday morning who were trying to break into a vehicle across the street from his home in Lakewood and, after a pursuit, fatally shot one of them, a sheriff's official said.

Lt. Eddie Hernandez, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said the off-duty Santa Ana officer, whose name has not been released, heard noises outside his home on Longworth Avenue, went outside and  found two suspects trying to break into a vehicle parked across the street. The officer confronted the men and identified himself as a police officer, Hernandez said.

The suspects fled and the officer pursued them in his personal car. At some point, one of the suspects got into the front seat of the officer's vehicle. Hernandez said it was unclear how the suspect got into the car, or whether the officer was also in the car at the time.

[Updated 1 p.m., Oct. 31: Hernandez said the officer got out of the car during the pursuit and somehow the suspect got into the vehicle’s driver's seat. The officer was standing outside the car, on the driver’s side, when he fired on the suspect. Hernandez said it is not yet known if the suspect was armed.]

The suspect reached into his waistband, and the officer fired at him four times.

The shooting took place at about 6:30 a.m. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer was not arrested but was taken to the local sheriff's station to be interviewed.

Neighbors of Rynerson Park in Lakewood woke up to the sounds of gunfire and helicopters flying overhead. 

Charles  Trybus, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, said that the community is relatively safe. He recalled that his house was broken into about seven years ago during a rash of burglaries but said that "it's usually a quiet neighborhood."

Trybus' neighbor John Tucker, who retired from the Santa Ana Police Department 10 years ago, said he was awakened by the sound of at least four gunshots in the morning. There have been a few small incidents of reported burglaries and attempted burglaries, he said, and he installed a video camera on the front of his house just in case.

At about 10:30 a.m. Monday, he was reviewing that tape to see if he could find anything useful to sheriff's deputies. He said the early morning fog made it difficult to see.

Still, he said: "It's a great neighborhood. We haven't had many issues here."

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-- Mark Boster and Paloma Esquivel in Lakewood

Photo: Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department examine the officer's vehicle where a suspect was shot. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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