PICO RIVERA, Calif. (AP) – A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy accidentally shot and killed a man during a gunfight with a wanted parolee who invaded the man's house and took his wife hostage, authorities said Saturday.
The deputy mistook Frank Mendoza, 54, for the parolee during an 8-hour standoff that ended with SWAT officers storming his home in the suburb of Pico Rivera to rescue his wife and kill the suspect, said William McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's detective division.
He said the confusion occurred after Cedric Ramirez, 24, traded gunfire with deputies who were trying to arrest him for parole violations around 5 p.m. Friday. Ramirez broke into Mendoza's home through a rear window. Deputies went to the front door to rush an adult and two children out of the house when Ramirez appeared in a hallway and began shooting at them, McSweeney said.
The deputies fired back and ran for cover in the front yard. Seconds later, a man ran out of the door.
"Believing the man was Ramirez, a deputy fired two shots at the man," McSweeney said. When one of the evacuated residents recognized that the fallen man was Mendoza, deputies tried to rescue him but he was dead by the time paramedics reached him.
"This incident was beyond tragic, and all of law enforcement grieves with the Mendoza family," McSweeney said. "We have made personal contact with the family, and have expressed our regret and sadness over these events."
Mendoza's wife was not harmed during the standoff, and no deputies were injured.
McSweeney said a SWAT team stormed the house after hostage negotiators failed to convince Ramirez to release his hostage and surrender.
He said every aspect of the standoff will be assessed by investigators for compliance with the law and department policy.
"Every deputy I've ever worked with tries to do the best job in circumstances like this," McSweeney said. "They unfold fast, they're extremely dangerous, you don't have all the information and you're making decisions about the information that you do have in one or two seconds."