Watts Standoff Ends with Suspect, Hostage Dead, Officer Wounded
Los Angeles: A hostage standoff in Watts, ended yesterday, July 10, 2005, when the armed suspect, 34-year-old Jose Raul Pena, confronted SWAT officers outside the door of his auto repair business. Throughout the incident Pena used his infant daughter as a human shield. He shot at officers, who returned fire, three separate times over 2 ½ hours, before the suspect and his daughter, the hostage, were killed, and a SWAT officer was shot.
“This is a tragedy for all involved,” said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. “My heart goes out to the child’s mother and family. Unfortunately, the suspect’s actions left the officers no choice. Over the 2 ½ hours, Mr. Pena was given repeated opportunities by officers and hostage negotiators to surrender or release the child.”
The incident began with a call to 9-1-1 at about 3:50 PM about “unknown trouble” at 10420 S. Avalon Boulevard in Watts. Arriving LAPD Southeast officers found a gated auto repair complex and car wash. Officers saw Pena, armed with a gun and holding his infant daughter. He fired at officers, who, fearing for their lives, fired back. Pena, still holding the child, ran back into an office, which was part of the auto repair business.
By 5:00 PM, officers had established contact by phone and were negotiating with Pena to release the child. When officers tried to rescue the suspect’s 17-year-old stepdaughter who had been pinned down by Pena’s gunfire, Pena stepped out of the building again and shot at officers for a second time. Police returned fire and Pena ran back into the building with the child in his arms. The stepdaughter may have been an intended target for Pena.
At 5:40 PM, the entire Department was placed on Tactical Alert in order to make every resource available to the situation.
Around 6:30 PM, Pena stepped out the door, still holding the child in his arms, and confronted SWAT officers, who were setting up outside the building. When Pena reached for his weapon, police fired, and Pena ran back into the office, while firing at the officers. As the SWAT team entered the office, Officer Daniel Sanchez was shot in the right shoulder. It is believed officers’ return fire killed Pena.
During the exchange, the child, identified as Susie Lopez, was also fatally wounded, but it is not immediately known whether the child’s injuries came from Pena’s fire or the officers’. The investigation and the Coroner’s examination should be able to determine how Pena and the child died.
Officer Sanchez, 39, was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he was admitted, kept over night and released today. Officer Sanchez is a 15-year veteran of LAPD. He is married, with five children. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visited the command post and the officer at the hospital.
Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics were brought into the office immediately, but Pena and the child both died at the scene.
Eleven officers fired weapons during the standoff. Preliminary estimates were that Pena fired over 40 rounds during the incident.
The Force Investigation Division will conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting. The Police Commission’s Inspector General and the District Attorney’s Office responded to the incident and will monitor the investigation.
All such incidents are presented to the District Attorney for criminal review, and the Police Commission makes a decision on policy for all officer-involved shootings.
Chief Bratton responded to the command post at 104th Street and Avalon Boulevard, then visited the involved officers at Southeast Police Station.
The information contained in the release was based upon preliminary information and is subject to change. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call 1-877-LAWFULL (529-3855).