LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eight Los Angeles police officers who mistakenly riddled a pickup truck with bullets during a manhunt for cop-turned-killer Christopher Dorner last year will be allowed to return to the field after they get additional training, Police Chief Charlie Beck said.
"I have confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs in the same capacity they had been assigned," Beck said in a department message to officers obtained Wednesday night by The Associated Press. "In the end, we as an organization can learn from this incident and from the individuals involved."
Both the chief and an independent commission found the 2013 shooting that injured two women violated department policy. The seven officers and one sergeant could have faced penalties including being fired.
Other discipline not outlined in the chief's message could be handed down, police Lt. Andrew Neiman said, but department policy prevents him from discussing it.
Attorney Glen Jonas, who represented the two women who won a $4.2 million settlement from the city, said he was concerned by the chief's decision not to terminate any of the eight officers.
"If either of the women had been killed, you can bet your bottom dollar somebody would be fired and maybe prosecuted," Jonas said. "A stroke of luck, firing more than 100 rounds and missing, should not mean the discipline is lighter."
The civilian Police Commission that found the officers violated policy also faulted the department itself, saying the officers were rotated in during the night to protect the home because of overtime concerns. The sergeant wasn't trained to oversee such a protection detail and there was no operational plan. The commission also cites the officers' inadequate firepower.
"The ability to address this threat was hindered to some degree due to the experience, training and logistical deployment of the personnel assigned," the board's report says. "On a larger scale, the planning conducted at the Bureau could have been more effective, ensuring proper deployment, both personnel and logistics, at the protected location."
Tyler Izen, president of the officers' union, said that given those circumstances, the officers should have been returned to work months ago.
"The involved officers are all well-qualified and talented members of the department who happened to be placed into a highly unreasonable and unusually difficult position," Izen said.
The events unfolded after Dorner, a fired Los Angeles police officer, claimed he was unfairly dismissed and vowed revenge against law enforcement officers in a rambling online manifesto.
He killed the daughter of a former LAPD police official, along with her fiance, and two law enforcement officers over 10 days before being cornered and killing himself in a burning mountain cabin in San Bernardino County.
The mistaken shooting occurred Feb. 7, 2013, as officers protected a Dorner target's Torrance home. When one of the newspaper delivery women threw a paper onto the pavement in the early morning hours, an officer believing the sound was a gunshot opened fire. Officers unable to see clearly into the vehicle riddled the pickup truck with 103 rounds and hit seven nearby homes and nine other vehicles with gunshots and shotgun pellets.
Margie Carranza, then 47, suffered minor injuries, and her then-71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez, was shot in the back.
"I appreciate that the officers involved in the incident took action with intent of protecting the 'target' and his family; however, the chain of events which unfolded and the extent to which the use of lethal force occurred did not meet my expectations, consequently there were innocent victims wounded," Beck said in the message, which is mostly critical of the officers but ends with his vote of confidence.
Beck goes on to say that he "found it to be very concerning that officers fired before adequately identifying a threat; fired without adequately identifying a target and not adequately evaluating cross fire situations."
Steve Soboroff, president of the civilian Police Commission, said Wednesday night that while discipline is the chief's decision and the circumstances were extreme, he "would have expected a more significant level of discipline for the actions of most of the officers in this incident."
"I trust that the training will be extensive and the department and officers will move forward from this tragic incident stronger and wiser from the lessons learned," Soboroff said.
Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams