MONTEREY PARK — The district attorney's office has concluded that Councilman Cam Briglio acted properly to save his own life and those of others when he pulled out a gun and traded shots with robbers inside a Monterey Park restaurant last weekend.
Deputy Dist. Atty. William Holliman, who is in charge of the district attorney's office at Alhambra Municipal Court, said that he reviewed the police report of the incident and concluded that Briglio, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, fired his gun because he was in a life-threatening situation.
Therefore, Holliman said, Briglio did not violate the law.
Mayor G. Monty Manibog, who said he was concerned that people might think Briglio had acted recklessly, expressed delight with the Holliman's conclusion.
"What Cam Briglio did was a brave and courageous thing," Manibog said. "He laid his life on the line. . . . No telling how many lives he saved."
Briglio was among 50 patrons in the Meitze Restaurant on Garvey Avenue at 2 a.m. last Sunday when two men walked in and one fired shots into the ceiling and toward the crowd, according to police.
The men demanded that the customers hand over their wallets, jewelry and other valuables.
Briglio said he drew his own gun because the robbers acted as if they might kill someone. Separated by less than 10 feet and a tank of tropical fish, Briglio and one of the robbers traded several shots.
Briglio was uninjured but a bullet shattered the fish tank, dumping the fish and water on the floor. The two would-be robbers then fled.
Deputy Police Chief Robert Collins said that it is unclear whose gun fired a bullet that split into fragments, one of which hit a woman in the hip. She was treated at a hospital and released.
Of Monterey Park's 58,000 residents, Briglio and Manibog are among 30 who hold permits from the chief of police to carry concealed weapons.
Chief Jon Elder, who issued the permits to the council members, is on leave related to stress problems and was unavailable for comment. Collins said that it is not unusual for political figures to carry guns.
State law authorizes police chiefs and sheriffs to issue permits to people of "good moral character" who have "good cause" for carrying a concealed weapon.
The wide discretion given to law enforcement officials results in some cities issuing only a few permits while others issue many.
For example, in West Covina, with about 88,000 residents, Police Chief Craig Meacham said only three people, all former FBI agents involved in security work, have permits to carry concealed weapons.
Pomona Police Chief Richard Tefank, whose city has more than 100,000 residents, said only six hold concealed-weapons permits. Meacham and Tefank said they have never issued permits to council members.
But in Irwindale, with a population of just over 1,000, Police Chief Julian Miranda said that he has issued 30 permits, many to reserve police officers. Miranda said council members have held permits, though he would not identify them.
Miranda and the city were sued in 1981 by Henry Barbosa, who was then on the City Council, for failing to renew Barbosa's permit after Barbosa was accused of pointing a loaded gun at a man near his home. Barbosa was charged with a misdemeanor in the incident, but the charge was dropped after a jury trial ended in a deadlock. Miranda said Barbosa's legal effort to force the city to renew his permit was unsuccessful.
Briglio said he obtained a concealed-weapon permit in Monterey Park after he was elected to the council in 1984 because of threats made against him and because he wanted to be able to help police while riding along in patrol cars on weekends.
Briglio said he had never had occasion to use the gun before. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said.
Manibog, an attorney, said he has held a concealed-weapon permit for 10 years and obtained it because his Los Angeles office is in a high-crime area and he sometimes works late.
Manibog said the city has been more selective in issuing permits since Elder became police chief 10 years ago. The number of permits has dropped from 150 to 30.
But Manibog said he believes law-abiding citizens should have the right to carry a gun when they might be in a dangerous situation.
Briglio and Manibog said they never bring their guns to council meetings. "I don't consider the council a dangerous place," Manibog said.
Monterey Park Councilman Barry L. Hatch said that he has not seen any need to get a gun permit since his election to the council in April.