A woman apparently distraught over a broken romance shot and wounded her former fiance Thursday and then was slain by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who confronted her as she stood waving a handgun by a freeway off-ramp near Hawthorne.
The Sheriff's Department claimed that April Alvarado, also known as April Herzog, was shot after she had scaled a barrier leading to the El Segundo Boulevard off-ramp of the northbound San Diego Freeway and refused repeated orders by a trio of deputies to throw down her gun.
"She was talking to the deputies, telling them, 'If you come closer I'll kill you,' " said Sheriff's Lt. Joe Brown, who is heading the homicide investigation. "All three fired (when) she did have the barrel leveled at them."
The deputies, who work out of the Lennox station, fired 26 times at Alvarado in what Brown described as "a barrage" of bullets. The 25-year-old woman, he said, did not fire at the officers.
Brown, however, said that despite the number of rounds fired by the deputies, it appeared to be a justified shooting because they were firing from a long distance.
"That's a lot, but as near as I can tell she was only struck three or four times," Brown said. "My only response is that (the deputies) fired until they felt the threat level was reduced."
The incident shocked residents in the nearby neighborhood of modest, neatly kept homes in the unincorporated area next to Hawthorne, who were awakened by the predawn gunfire.
"It sounded like you were down in Tijuana during Cinco de Mayo when you light the fireworks," said Paul Viau, who said he ran to the front door when he heard shots.
"I saw one officer standing . . . with his gun out and firing away," Viau said. "He just emptied it."
Another resident, who lives a few houses from the freeway and who asked not to be identified, said he and his wife awoke to the sound of gunfire and afterward counted more than two dozen spent shell cases on the street where deputies had positioned themselves during the early morning standoff.
Hours later, Alvarado's body could still be seen on the off-ramp, which was closed to traffic, but a coroner's spokesman said he would have no comment on her death until an autopsy is completed.
The Arizona woman died less than an hour after she reportedly shot 22-year-old Todd Allen Nabours in a gray, stucco house in the 5100 block of West 129th Street, less than a block from the freeway.
Nabours' roommate, Dave French, told The Times that the couple had spent the night together after Alvarado had arrived at the house Wednesday night in an apparent effort to revive a relationship that ended last month when Nabours broke off their engagement.
"They lived together in Phoenix," French said. "They were supposed to get married in January. He didn't want to, and he moved out here."
After the breakup, French said that Alvarado had repeatedly called the house in tears searching for Nabours.
"She has shown up from Arizona on three different occasions and twice he sent her back on the bus and sent her home. One time, she rented a car and came out here. She's insanely jealous," said French, who added that he still believed that the couple was working things out when he last saw them speaking quietly in the bedroom.
French, who slept in an adjacent bedroom, said he was awakened by a gunshot at 4:10 a.m. Thursday and ran in to find Nabours, clad only in sweat pants, sitting in bed covered with blood, bewildered by his wound.
"He was apparently sleeping when he was shot," French said.
As French called for paramedics, Nabours staggered outside and sheriff's deputies said he managed to flag down one of their patrol cars, which launched the search for Alvarado.
A short time later, deputies spotted Alvarado near the freeway. They said she tried to escape by climbing the freeway barrier and began backing away from deputies, moving up the embankment of the off-ramp and waving a gun. Deputies said they were shouting for her to surrender. At 5:10 a.m., they said, the woman appeared to aim her gun at the deputies and they opened fire.
Lt. Brown said the shooting would be investigated by the Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which examines all officer-involved shootings.
Nabours was taken to Harbor General-UCLA Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition with a gunshot wound to the neck, hospital spokeswoman Maria Cancino said Thursday.