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Police who responded to deadly hostage situation acted appropriately

May 13, 2009 |  6:10 pm


The many SWAT officers and other Los Angeles police who responded to a deadly, confusing hostage situation last year acted appropriately, according to an internal LAPD examination of the incident.

Police Chief William J. Bratton released this week the findings of a review panel that dissected the harrowing February 2008 incident, in which a mentally-ill man killed his father, two brothers and SWAT

Officer Randall Simmons. Officer James Veenstra was also seriously wounded.

Although the names of involved officers and victims, along with some other details, have been redacted from the public version, the 38-page report offers a dramatic script of how the incident unfolded.

After killing his father and two brothers in their Winnetka home, Edwin Rivera, 20, kept police at bay during an eight-hour standoff that ended with officers killing Rivera. The death of Simmons, who was killed by Rivera during an ill-fated attempt by SWAT to apprehend Rivera and rescue any survivors, rocked the tightly-knit unit and the LAPD as a whole.

Although the officers’ conduct, including their decision to use deadly force, was within department rules, the review panel and Bratton expressed concern about some aspects of the response. For example, communication among the officers was imperfect at times, as inaccurate information about the situation was relayed to responding SWAT officers.

Also, the SWAT entry team was not fully briefed before storming the house, the panel concluded. The panel and Bratton also criticized officers, who, in a rush to help the wounded officers, did not maintain their assigned positions after a “officer down” call was broadcast.

“The situation became very chaotic,” the panel found. The response “was not consistent with the discipline necessary to effectively manage the rapidly unfolding situation.”

--Joel Rubin

Los Angeles Police Department officers and firemen inspect the home in Los Angeles, California USA where LAPD SWAT officer Randal Simmons was killed in a shootout in the early morning hours of 07 February 2008. POOL PHOTO BY AL SEIB/LOS ANGELES TIMES EPA/AL SEIB / POOL