Long Beach police, believing that they had spotted a kidnaper with a gun, shot a man Thursday night as he was opening the door to his home. But there was no kidnaper, no victim and no gun, police now say.
They acknowledged Friday that they shot an innocent man and that the call about a kidnaping was bogus.
The hoax was part of a bizarre tale that led police to the West Long Beach home of the Randall family, where everyone had just finished eating dinner when William Randall thought he heard a knock on the door.
"I don't even remember opening the door all the way and wham!," said Randall, who was shot once in the left leg, above the knee. He spent the night at a local hospital and was back home by Friday.
"(The officers) kinda like stared at me. It was a 'what now, oops'-type situation," said Randall, a 24-year-old college student who had arrived home for Christmas vacation only a few hours before the incident.
Officer Jose Yarruhs, a 4 1/2-year veteran, accidentally shot Randall because he was startled when the door opened, police said.
Yarruhs and Officer Kimberly Krabbe arrived at the Randall home about 9 p.m. Thursday, after a caller told police that a kidnaper was holding a woman there.
Yarruhs looked through a window and thought he saw a man carrying a gun, according to Homicide Detective Roy Hamand. The officer began to prop open the screen door. According to police, Randall heard the noise and opened the door abruptly. Randall, however, said he heard a knock on the door and opened it casually.
"I think (the officer) was scared and startled when the door opened. And he was in a position where he thought someone was being held against her will," Hamand said. Police found no gun at the scene.
After the shooting, the officer "told me to go outside and I told him I wasn't going anywhere," Randall said. Shortly after, he said he went into shock.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the Police Department are investigating.
Long Beach police also were looking Friday for the woman who made the false report of a kidnaping. Police believe that she is a distant relative of Randall but declined to identify her.
The call apparently stemmed from a domestic squabble in which the woman called to say that her sister-in-law had been abducted and was being held at the Randall home. Police and Randall said they had no idea what prompted the hoax.
Meanwhile, Randall was recovering from his wound and trying to understand what happened.
"How could something like this happen?" Randall said.
"They should have made a call or investigated what's going on. They were working on 100% hearsay," Randall said. "It seems to me (the officer) should have been more careful."