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13-year-old with pellet gun wounded by LAPD officer

December 17, 2010 | 11:02 pm

A Los Angeles police officer shot and wounded a 13-year-old boy who was carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun in the Glassell Park area.

Police said late Friday that the incident occurred about 7:50 p.m. Thursday when two LAPD officers on  routine patrol in the 3000 block of North Verdugo Road saw three pedestrians in the middle of the street and stopped to investigate. The three people ran, with one ending up behind a van.

The officers got out of their patrol car, and one of them, Officer Victor Abarca, shined a flashlight on the person behind the van and ordered him to surrender. Based on the person’s 5-foot-7, 200-pound frame, Abarca assumed that he was a young adult male.

Police said the subject refused to comply and instead produced what was later found to be a fake Beretta 92F handgun. Abarca fired his gun, striking the subject.

Los Angeles Fire Department personnel responded and took the subject to a hospital, where he underwent surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition.

After the shooting, Abarca and rescue personnel were stunned to learn that the wounded male was, in fact, just 13. The other two subjects, 13 and 14, were detained without incident after dropping their fake handguns. Three faux weapons were recovered.

Detectives from the LAPD’s force investigation division responded to the scene. Police said they had determined that the subjects had been playing in the dark street, shooting pellets at one another with the fake handguns. They said they anticipated that no criminal charges would be filed against any of the three juveniles.

"This is a tragedy for all involved, but in particular for the young man injured in this police shooting and for the officer who believed that he was protecting himself and his partner from a real threat," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

"The pellet gun the juvenile was using is the exact dimensions of a Beretta 92F and is indistinguishable from a real handgun on a dark night," Beck said. "We have seen far too much heartbreak involving these types of realistic-looking guns that are labeled as toys."

-- Martha Groves