The eight Southern California police officers who mistakenly fired more than 100 shots at a car being driven by two women during a manhunt for suspected cop-killer Christopher Dorner last year will return to the field, officials now say.
Although both the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and a civilian oversight board agree that eight LAPD officers violated official policy during the one-sided shootout in Torrance, CA last February 7, an internal memorandum obtained by members of the media on Wednesday reveal that those cops will continue to work the streets of Southern California.
"I have confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs in the same capacity they had been assigned," Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a department message to officers on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. "In the end, we as an organization can learn from this incident and from the individuals involved."
For violating department policy, Beck could have — but declined — to terminate those eight officers, although additional, unnamed disciplinary measures are still on the table, the AP reported on Thursday.
"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.
As RT reported earlier this week, both Beck and a civilian review board independently determined that the eight LAPD officers acted improperly last year when they opened fire at a blue Toyota Tacoma pickup truck presumed to belong to Dorner, a 33-year-old former cop who was suspected of killing four people before being declared dead days later at the end of an intense, multi-state manhunt.
A police officer mistook that vehicle for Dorner’s grey Nissan Titan and then, according to remarks made by Beck during a press conference on Tuesday this week, began shooting when the sound of a newspaper being thrown against the pavement was confused for a gunshot.
Seven other officers then opened fire on the Toyota, injuring both occupants — Margie Carranza, 47, and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Jernandez. They were delivering newspapers at the time of the incident, and were later awarded $40,000 by the city for a new vehicle and an additional settlement valued at reportedly $4.2 million.
"While I certainly empathize and understand the conditions and circumstances that led to this particular officer-involved shooting, I hold our police officers to the highest standards in the application of deadly force," Beck told reporters on Tuesday when the review group’s findings were made public.
Just hours later, though, the internal memo revealed that those officials involved in the shooting won’t be sent off the street, and instead will be asked to endure additional training and then rejoin their colleagues on patrol.
“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," Steve Soboroff, the president of the civilian Police Commission, told the AP.
Others — including the attorney for the injured women — disagree.
"If either of the women had been killed, you can bet your bottom dollar somebody would be fired and maybe prosecuted," lawyer Glen Jonas told the AP. "A stroke of luck, firing more than 100 rounds and missing, should not mean the discipline is lighter."
On Thursday, the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times even objected to the LAPD’s decision to allow those officers back on the street.
“It's hard to imagine what could justify firing 28 times at two unarmed women, or that an officer capable of such bad judgment could be trusted in the future. But punishing the officers or their superiors should not end this inquiry, which should additionally determine whether those involved grossly ignored their training or whether the training itself was lacking,” the Times’ journalists wrote. “Beck is right to hold officers to the highest standards and to demand accountability when they misuse deadly force. He and the commission need to evaluate possible shortcomings in training or tactical procedures that were exposed by this event.”