Christopher Dorner, crazy renegade ex-LAPD officer armed to the teeth, went on a killing spree that ended with his death in a burning cabin. Seeking revenge, he was targeting police officers and their families.
While he was on the loose, Southern California police officers were highly upset. Now, it’s tricky to have gangs of anxious people rushing around, heavily armed, expecting murder and not knowing where it might come from. Luckily, police officers are trained in how to behave in high-stress situations.
One of the many places the LAPD was staking out in hopes of catching Dorner was a house in Torrance, where a captain named in Dorner’s manifesto lived. Around 5:30 am on February 7, police watching the off-ramp radioed the guys on stakeout that a truck had gotten off the freeway, possibly heading in their direction.
Earlier, Margie Carranza (47) and her mother, Emma Hernandez (71), had gotten up long before dawn to deliver the L.A. Times. They drove slowly. From the back seat, Hernandez passed each paper to her daughter, who flung it out the window at a subscriber’s house.
Their sinister approach was noted when they took the Torrance exit, and when they made the menacing choice to turn onto the block of Redbeam Avenue where the stakeout was. Suddenly there were bullets everywhere, and the two terrified women crouched down.
Hernandez got two bullets in the back. Carranza got a hand injury, either from a bullet or from flying glass. (No word on the tree’s condition.)
Somehow, the police managed to stop shooting them. They were taken to a hospital, where Hernandez went to the ICU. She was released the next evening. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, out on a limb, said “Tragically, we believe this is a case of mistaken identity.”
Meanwhile Torrance police two blocks away heard there was a gunfight, so when they saw an obviously doom-laden truck coming along half an hour later, they cleverly rammed it, fired three shots through the windshield, and ordered the driver to get out and lie face-down. Alas, it was just David Perdue, trying to go surfing before work. In his former truck.
A curious thing is that just before Perdue was attacked by police, he’d been flagged down by a different police cruiser. He showed I.D., explained about surfing, and was sent on his way – only to encounter the second, more agitated group of police, who rammed his truck and shot at him. Perdue wasn’t hit by bullets, but was injured by the collision, getting a shoulder injury and a concussion. As a Torrance PD press release put it, “no visible injuries.”
Let’s stop and salute the officers in the first car, who seem to have kept their heads when all about them were losing theirs. It’s a pity calm doesn’t catch on as quickly as panic.
Both shootings are still under investigation, a process that has been known to take a long time. The officers involved are not on field duty.
SorryWatch wants to know about apologies. Chief Beck “reached out to the victims and apologized to them.” He told a Southern California Public Radio interviewer, “I want to tell your listeners what great people they are and how gracious they were for accepting my apology and actually forgiving the officers. I thought that was extremely gracious.” He also said they would be furnished with a new vehicle, and that he’d talked to the L.A. Times to make sure they wouldn’t be fired for missing work.
Maybe that apology took it out of him. When interviewer Patt Morrison commented that some said police were “more ardent” about protecting police than civilians, he said, “I make no apology for protecting those that protect others.”
Over in Torrance, police apologized to Perdue, offered him the use of a rental car, and said they’d cover his medical bills.
This was after a bunch of stupid press-release stuff about how “a reasonable officer” would have believed that Perdue’s vehicle “posed a serious risk” and so “[i]n the split seconds available to them, action was appropriate to intervene and stop the actions of the driver of that vehicle.” Oh? What about the previous officers who merely asked Perdue some questions and sent him along the way? They sound like reasonable officers.
Beck says Hernandez and Carranza accepted his apology. Maybe they did. We don’t know the content of his apology. We don’t know the content of their supposed acceptance. Their lawyer merely said, “The family appreciates that Chief Beck apologized on behalf of the LAPD.”
But that’s not enough for me unless it included a pledge for massive, ongoing training of police officers to prevent this kind of hysterical gunfire in the future.
Sure, the police were in an intense emotional state, with grief and anger and fear and excitement. That’s not a good reason to go around shooting newspaper carriers and surfers and neighborhood trees. The police departments’ behavior put everyone at risk. Carranza, Hernandez, and Perdue were just unlucky.
Anyone can be in a slightly unexpected place at an unexpected time, not just crazed killers. People delivering newspapers at dawn? It can happen. Guy gets up early to catch a wave? I’ve heard of that. Birdwatchers? Now you’re talking crazy! People don’t even have to be innocent – you could be sneaking away from a lovers’ tryst, and you still shouldn’t be at risk of wandering into an ambush bristling with guns and frenzied authority-drunk officers.
Here’s another thing: What if it had been Dorner in the truck? Presumably the cops would have kept firing, since those hundred plus shots weren’t enough to kill anybody. In fact, Dorner would probably have worn a bulletproof vest, so he wouldn’t have taken those two shots in the back, and could have leapt out and taken on all eight officers. (Aided only by his sinister sidekick, the tree). OH NO.
And another: while researching this story I came across an indignant piece on these shootings, focusing on police misuse of guns which drew this moral: “Sometimes both police and civilians abuse their guns; this is a part of human nature. However, there is genuine risk to real people by restricting or taking away lawful use of guns. That needs to be part of our national discussion on gun control. Police should not be the only ones with guns.”
Yeah, picture Margie Carranza whipping out guns and taking on the LAPD over the bleeding body of her mother. That would have ended well.