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L.A.: Quadruple homicides in Valley standoff

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Uploaded on Feb 9, 2008

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A sniper fells the man who killed a SWAT officer and seriously injured another. Three males believed to be the suspect's relatives were also killed.

By Richard Winton, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

10:52 AM PST, February 7, 2008
In a tense overnight standoff, a man shot and killed a Los Angeles SWAT officer and seriously wounded another after calling 911 to report that he had killed three family members at a San Fernando Valley home, authorities said. A police sniper killed the suspect this morning, authorities said.
The sniper struck the man in the head about 7:30 a.m. as he tried to flee out a door, still firing his weapon more than 10 hours after the incident began, several LAPD sources said.
hree males who police believe are related to the suspect were also killed.
One of the victims had been pulled from the home hours earlier by officers who believed he was still alive, police said. The rescue attempt was made as officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect -- who hid between mattresses as he fired at them, they said.
A woman who apparently was hiding inside the home came out shortly after 5 a.m. as tear gas was fired into the home, police officials said.
"When that happened, a woman suddenly appeared from the rear of the residence," said LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore. "She was rescued. Our understanding is she was there during the earlier carnage of the people being shot and killed."
"At this point, she does appear to be a victim," he said.
The incident began about 9 p.m. Wednesday when a man called 911 and said he had killed three people at a home in the 19800 block of Welby Way in the Valley neighborhood of Winnetka.
The decision to go into the home came more than three hours later, when officers at the scene determined that there may still be people in distress inside, said assistant police Chief Jim McDonnell.
SWAT officers broke through the front door and exchanged fire with the suspect.
Officer Randal Simmons, a veteran of the unit, was shot in the head and mortally wounded as SWAT officers broke through the front door, police said. Sources said a round entered Simmons' neck, lodging in his brain stem. He was rushed to Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he died just after 1 a.m, officials said. Simmons, a married father of a teenage son and daughter, spent his off-hours mentoring youth in South Los Angeles -- a sign of how passionate he was about his work and the community where he had been a gang officer for years, colleagues said.
Originally from New York, he had been a football player at Washington State University and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. But an injury shortened his pro football career and he ended up in the LAPD police academy, and then as a patrol officer, starting in 1981.
He worked Pacific Division, gang units in South Los Angeles, and then SWAT.
"He was always there to support, mentor and help," said LAPD Capt. James Craig, a close friend and academy classmate. "He was a kind person."
Wounded in the 12:30 a.m. exchange of gunfire was Officer James Veenstra, a veteran member of the tactical team who was also taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center and is expected to survive. Veenstra, who is married to a police captain, was cited for valor in 1997 for his actions at the scene of a shooting that left a Glendale police detective dead.
In today's incident, he sustained one gunshot wound to the left side of his lower jaw and underwent a three-hour surgery that doctors said would be the first of many. But Veenstra's prognosis is "very good," said Gabriel Aslanian, a surgeon who was one of the doctors who operated on him.
Aslanian said the officer was "very fortunate" because the bullet lodged in his jaw.
When the officer was brought into the emergency room, he was alert and breathing on his own, Aslanian said. His wife, Capt. Michelle Veenstra, is with him, Aslanian said, adding that his recovery will take months.
Simmons' death is the first in the line of fire in the SWAT unit's history, McDonnell said. (SWAT Officer Louis Villalobos died during a training accident in 2000; he was awarded the Medal of Valor.) The Special Weapons and Tactics Unit, created in the late 1960s and formalized in 1971, deals with especially dangerous situations. It handles about 100 barricaded suspect incidents and 120 high-risk warrants each year.
"They go into harm's way," McDonnell said. "When officers can't handle a call they call SWAT. They knew what they were going into."
"It was a tragedy what happened out there," he said, "but it could have been a lot worse."

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