Suspected Drug Dealers Fire on Narcotics Officers

August 31, 2006

Los Angeles: A suspected drug dealer was shot by two LAPD narcotics officers yesterday after the man fired at the officers in an alley. A second suspect was arrested, and a third escaped in a car.

Two narcotics officers, working out of the Devonshire Police Station, were investigating complaints of drug activities coming from a house at 19320 Parthinia Street in Chatsworth. Police Officers Marco Taoatao, 32, and Jay Espiritu, 38, drove into the alley behind the home and noticed a charcoal Nissan Altima, which had been described in the public complaints.

The two men in the Altima drove away immediately. As the car circled the block, the officers followed and radioed for a marked police car to detain the men. The Altima pulled back into the alley and stopped behind the suspected drug house. The driver abruptly ran from the car as another man ran out of the house, firing a gun.

Both officers returned fire at the gunman, Juan Curiel, 30, who fell wounded. The Altima’s driver hid in the backyard during the exchange of gunfire, and the officers arrested him. The man turned out to be Curiel’s brother, 28-year-old Albert.

Meanwhile, an unnamed passenger in the Altima drove the car away. A few minutes later, Juan Curiel’s wife, showed up in the alley, driving the charcoal Altima, which had bullet holes in the hood. The woman was questioned and released by detectives.

Albert Curiel was booked on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer. Juan Curiel died at the Northridge Hospital later that evening.

Neither officer was injured in the incident.

At least one bullet hole could be seen in the police officers’ undercover car. Curiel’s semi-automatic handgun was recovered in the alley. Detectives were able to confirm that the Curiels had spoken to each other by telephone just prior to the shooting, and that the men knew Taoatao and Espiritu were police officers.

Force Investigation Division is investigating the officer-involved shooting. Officer Taoatao has been with 9 years with LAPD, and Officer Espiritu has been an officer for 6 years.