ESCONDIDO — A police investigation into a bloody, 12-hour siege at an apartment complex here that left two people dead and two others wounded Saturday focused on two key questions Sunday:
How did Robert Gary Taschner, who fatally shot one San Diego County sheriff's deputy and wounded two others before being killed himself by SWAT officers, come to have a powerful rifle in his possession only four days after Escondido police seized numerous other weapons from his apartment?
And, did deputies, as Taschner's mother charged Sunday, "execute" him by firing a shot into his body after he had already been felled by other shots and was lying, incapacitated, on the ground?
"My son was not a police killer, that's for sure," Sally Taschner said. "He was a wonderful boy. He loved animals and loved people. He was the type of person who'd give you his last cent. This just doesn't make sense."
The slain deputy, Lonny Brewer, 29, of El Cajon was a seven-year veteran. The other two officers were not seriously wounded. The officers were shot as they attempted to enter the apartment.
Shot Several Times
After a lengthy standoff, Taschner, 37, was shot several times by officers as he ran out the door firing an AK-47 assault rifle.
What happened next is the subject of controversy. San Diego television station KGTV (Channel 10) broadcast a videotape Sunday showing that, as Taschner was lying on the ground, restrained by one officer and a police dog, he was quickly surrounded by other officers, one of whom fired a shot only inches from Taschner's head.
Slow-motion replays of the KGTV footage do not make it clear whether that shot struck or narrowly missed Taschner--who might have already been dead from the other wounds. In addition, the officer who fired the shot appeared to stumble slightly before his gun discharged, raising doubt over whether the shot was accidental or deliberate.
Taschner's mother, nevertheless, cited the footage as proof that police used excessive force.
"He was down, not moving, being held down, but they still blew him in the head," Sally Taschner said. "Who knows if he was still alive? But it wasn't necessary. It was wrong. My son was a victim, too.
"He knew all along if he came out the door to try to give himself up that they'd kill him. Anybody knows when the SWAT team comes in, you're dead. After the officer died, there was no doubt that that was how this thing was going to end."
Sgt. Frank Nunez of the sheriff's public relations division said that investigators had not yet reviewed the tapes of the incident and therefore could not draw any conclusions about the shot.
Officials in the San Diego County coroner's office declined to specify whether Taschner had received a head wound or to release any other information, saying that the autopsy had not been completed.
Police have speculated that Taschner may have been under the influence of drugs. Although preliminary details about the autopsy could be released as early as today, Deputy Coroner Chuck Bolton said late Sunday that it will be at least several days before drug test results are known.
Another question that authorities had little to say about Sunday dealt with how Taschner came to have the AK-47 assault rifle in his possession only days after Escondido police confiscated numerous other weapons from his apartment.
Police said that the rifle was not among the weapons seized when Taschner was arrested Tuesday. Lt. Ed Jackson added, however, that he was not certain whether officers failed to locate the rifle during their search on Tuesday or whether Taschner acquired it after posting bail.