LAPD Chief Backs Baby Shoot Cops

Crime scene tape surrounds an area still under investigation by Los Angeles police Monday, July 11, 2005, where a toddler was shot and killed on Sunday, July 10, when her father used her as a shield in a gun battle with police in South Los Angeles. The man, identified as Jose Raul Lemos, also died in the hours-long standoff and an officer was wounded. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
AP
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said Monday his officers were well within department policy when they shot a man who fired on them while wielding his toddler as a shield.

Both the man and his 19-month-old girl were killed Sunday — autopsies will determine whether the bullet that killed her was fired by police or her 34-year-old father Jose Raul Pena. An officer shot in the shoulder was expected to recover.

"You aren't going to stand there with somebody shooting at you," Bratton said. "The person responsible for any loss of life ... was the individual who held his child out as a shield and continued to shoot."

The 19-month-old child's mother, Lorena Lopez, said she pleaded with officers to hold their fire.

"He had problems with depression, his business was not doing well," Lopez told KNBC-TV. "I told them that he needed help, he needs a psychologist, but please don't shoot. They didn't understand, and the police fired, like, 300 shots."

Police spokesman Kevin Maiberger said 11 officers fired during the standoff, but it was not immediately known how many shots they took.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the officers were only trying to protect themselves and the public.

"My heart is out to a grieving mother who's lost her child. My heart is also out to those officers who put their lives on the line," Villaraigosa said. "Not a one of them went into that situation with the intent to hurt anyone. They were doing their jobs."

The standoff started when officers were called to an intersection in South Los Angeles west of Watts where Pena was behaving erratically and aggressively.

He fired at the officers and ran inside a fenced area that included his apartment and his car wash and detailing business. He had a 9 mm handgun and a shotgun and was intoxicated on drugs and alcohol, police said.

Police called in a special weapons team and tried to talk to the man. At one point, as officers helped a neighbor escape, he fired at them and they fired back, police said.