Los Angeles: On December 16, 2010, at about 7:50 p.m. in the Glassell Park Area of Los Angeles, two Los Angeles Police Department Northeast Area officers were on routine patrol in the 3000 block of North Verdugo Road, when they saw three pedestrians in the middle of the dark street and stopped to investigate. All three of the subjects ran from the street. Two went to the east side; one went to the west side of the street and stood behind a parked van. The officer’s got out of their patrol car and Officer Victor Abarca, two years 11-months with the Department, began giving commands to the male behind the van. Because of the young man’s size, 5’7” tall and 200 pounds, Officer Abarca believed he was dealing with a young adult male.
Officer Abarca gave commands for the subject to surrender as he illuminated him with a flashlight. The subject refused to comply with the officer’s commands and instead produced what was later determined to be a replica Berretta 92F handgun. Officer Abarca, who was unable to see the orange tip of the pistol, which distinguishes it as a replica handgun, discharged his duty weapon striking the subject. Los Angeles City Fire Department personnel responded and transported the wounded subject to a local hospital where he underwent surgery and is listed in critical but stable condition.
After the shooting, Officer Abarca and rescue personnel were shocked to learn that the wounded male was in fact just 13-years old. The other two subjects, both juveniles who are 13 and 14-years old, were detained without incident after dropping their very real-looking replica handguns to the ground. A total of three were recovered.
Detectives from the Department’s Force Investigation Division responded to the scene and are conducting an investigation into the OIS. While the investigation is in its early stages, it has been determined that the subjects had been playing in the dark street, shooting pellets at each other with the replica handguns. It is anticipated that no criminal charges will 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 LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “The pellet gun the juvenile was using is the exact dimensions of a Beretta 92 F, and is indistinguishable from a real handgun on a dark night. We have seen far too much heartbreak involving these types of realistic looking guns that are labeled as toys.”
In addition to the Chief of Police, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division, the Office of the Inspector General and the Board of Police Commissioners maintain access to, and oversight responsibilities for, all officer-involved shooting investigations.