Los Angeles: Los Angeles police officers driving on Vermont Avenue through an area of Los Angeles County, between Gardena and the City of Los Angeles, apparently interrupted a drive-by shooting and shot at a man holding a shotgun. That man, 21-year-old Melvin Lee Hilliard, ran into his home, where he was later found dead.
The incident occurred yesterday afternoon, June 26, 2006, around 1:00 PM, when LAPD officer Dario Machado, 30, and his partner were driving north on Vermont Avenue and heard gun shots. The officers made a U-turn and came upon Hilliard standing in the road in front of 1004 West 122nd Street. He was holding a shotgun and walking toward the front door of his home.
The uniformed officers stopped their marked patrol car and ordered Hilliard to drop the shotgun. According to witnesses, when Hilliard turned the gun toward the officers, Police Officer Machado fired several rounds. Hilliard ran into his home.
More officers arrived and surrounded the residence. A second man came out of the residence when ordered, and said his friend was dead inside. Officers entered the residence and found Hilliard dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
Detectives at the scene found a shotgun inside Hilliard’s residence. They also found expended shotgun shells and wadding in the street, evidence that a shotgun had been fired. In addition to noting the casings from Officer Machado’s rounds, detectives also found bullet casings on the opposite end of the street. The caliber was different from that used by the officer’s gun, an indication of a third party having fired at the scene.
Witnesses reported hearing gun shots and seeing a white Chevrolet Impala in the area, just prior to the officers’ arrival.
An autopsy will determine Hilliard’s exact cause of death. It could be either a result off the officer’s fire, self inflicted, or as a result of the drive-by shooting that preceded the officers’ arrival.
The Force Investigation Division of LAPD will investigate the officer’s shooting despite the occurrence happening in the County area. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was present at the crime scene.
Officer Machado is assigned to the Southeast Police Station, and he has been an LAPD officer for three years.