RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A college student shot to death by a deputy sheriff during a game of Lazer Tag was regarded as a "neat kid" by his former school registrar and as a good citizen by authorities.
Leonard Falcon, 19, was shot to death Tuesday night as he and three friends darted among the darkened buildings at Central Elementary School in mock combat.
"He was an A-OK guy," said Thelma Wolford, operations director of the Taco Bell restaurant where Falcon worked. "Leonard wouldn't ever do anything to hurt anybody."
"I could see that young man, the one who is dead, being an excellent deputy five years down the road, just a good solid, citizen . . . his life in front of him," San Bernardino County sheriff's spokesman Jim Bryant said Thursday. "He was a good student at Etiwanda High School and at Chaffey College, studying electronics."
Falcon was shot by a six-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department who had been called to Central Elementary School at 10 p.m. Tuesday after a passer-by walking a dog reported armed prowlers. The Sheriff's Department has declined to release the name of the deputy.
"He was a neat kid," recalled Wanda Malone, registrar at Etiwanda. "He did his own thing and never caused any problems."
She said Falcon's parents used to worry about his sight, and he wore glasses.
"He couldn't wear contacts (lenses) because of his eye problems," she said.
Bryant said this might have hampered his vision when deputies searched the schoolyard Tuesday night on a tip from a neighbor who was passing by the school and reported suspicious activity. He said Falcon jumped out and flashed his electronic toy gun at deputies, apparently believing they were opponents in the game of Lazer Tag.
The deputy saw a flash from the gun, racked a shell into the chamber of his shotgun and fired once, and then fired again when he saw another flash, Bryant said.
The young man fell to the ground. The deputy reached down to recover the fallen man's weapon and only then discovered that it was a toy, Bryant said.
Bryant said the flash of light alone would be enough to cause a deputy to open fire, because usually "you'll never hear the sound" of a gunshot before the bullet hits.
Wolford recalled Falcon as a reliable worker "you could always call if you needed extra help."
He often worked past quitting time and got along well with customers and other workers, she said, noting that he was a member of the restaurant's bowling team.
"Leonard was a likable guy," she said. "He was bright, he was a joker and a quiet person."
A rosary is scheduled for Falcon at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Richardson-Peterson Mortuary in Ontario, and Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at St. Peter & St. Paul Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga, with burial at Forest Lawn Covina Hills cemetery afterward.
Falcon's survivors include his parents, Joseph and Marie Falcon of Rancho Cucamonga; a brother, Gregory, of Rancho Cucamonga; a sister, Diane Marin of Upland, and his grandmother, Jessie Medina of Alhambra.