Firemen Shot During Fire

December 17, 2002

Los Angeles: On Tuesday, December 17, at 2:43 a.m., members of the Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to a structure fire located at 9218 Encino Avenue. As trucks assigned to Engine Companies 18 and 75 arrived at the scene, blasts of an unknown origin were heard and projectiles struck two firetrucks. Two firefighters seated in the cab of the lead engine suffered shrapnel-like injuries due to shards of glass emanating from a driver side window that had been struck. Uncertain of the origin of the blast, firefighters began to deploy toward the single family residence in order to combat the fire that was engulfing the structure.
A firefighter approached the north side of the residence to gain access to the rear yard. He heard what sounded like gunfire and was immediately struck in the abdomen by an apparent projectile. The wounded fireman advised his fellow firefighters that he had been shot. The firemen were unsure whether they were being fired upon by an unseen individual, or whether incendiary devices were exploding from within the home. The companies attempted to battle the flames from the street and requested the response of the Los Angeles Police Department. All three injured firemen were transported to nearby hospitals for medical treatment.
Devonshire Area officers arrived and secured the location and established a command post in concert with the Fire Department. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, members of the Metropolitan Division Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT) responded to the scene. SWAT officers systematically searched the impacted lot at the time the fire was brought under control. At approximately 7:30 a.m., SWAT members located the body of an elderly male within a shed located toward the rear of the extended property. The decedent appeared to have sustained a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and was pronounced dead at the scene. A handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle were recovered within the immediate control of the decedent.
Family members of the property owner arrived on scene and advised the assigned investigators that the owner and his wife were currently separated and were in the throngs of a prolonged and adversarial divorce. It was learned that a second structure fire had generated at a single-family residence located at 9206 Whitaker Avenue, in Granada Hills, a short time prior to the Encino Avenue blaze. The Encino Avenue homeowner lived at the Whitaker address. Both fires appear to be arson generated. Investigators have opined that the acts of arson were motivated by a recent unfavorable court ruling mandating the Encino property be sold in its uninhabited condition.
One or more of the three firearms recovered within close proximity of the decedent are believed to have been fired at the responding firemen.
The firefighter who incurred a single abdominal gunshot wound has been identified as Yandell Bishop, 42 years old, and an eight-year veteran of the Fire Department. He remains in stable condition at Northridge Hospital. Captain Ronald Grey, 34 year Fire Department veteran, and Engineer Don Matthews, a 22-year veteran, were treated for minor abrasions and released from Granada Hills Hospital.
Identification of the decedent is pending further efforts by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Release of the name will occur following notification of known family members. Devonshire Area Homicide personnel and Los Angeles City Fire Department, Arson Unit, are heading the investigation, with assistance from multiple agencies.
This press release was prepared by Public Information Officer Jason Lee, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.