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2 Deputies Fired for Killing of Disturbed Man

January 22, 1992|VICTOR MERINA and RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who fatally shot a mentally disturbed man eight times in the back last summer have been notified that they will be fired for allegedly violating their department's shooting policy, an attorney for the officers said Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Department informed Deputies Kelly Enos and Paul McCready in writing last Friday that they will be dismissed for their roles in the Aug. 13 shooting death of Keith Hamilton in Ladera Heights. The notification came a month after a county grand jury declined to indict them on criminal charges.

A sergeant, who was on the scene and fired a stun gun at Hamilton, was told that he will be demoted, sources said.

The attorney for McCready and Enos said that the deputies shot in self-defense and that he plans to appeal the dismissals. "The department has cited their conduct in the Ladera Heights shooting (as the reason) for the discharge," said Richard Shinee, the lead counsel for the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. "My initial review of the circumstances of the case reveals no misconduct or violation of departmental policies."

The attorney declined to name the sergeant who was demoted, but sources close to the case identified him as Sgt. David Hogan, who worked with the other deputies at the Marina del Rey station.

Sheriff's officials declined comment when asked about the disciplinary actions. "What we can tell you is that the administrative investigation has been completed," said Lt. Jeff Springs. "However, we are precluded by (state) law from discussing personnel issues and the outcome of the investigation."

Springs said McCready, 28, a five-year veteran, and Enos, 27, a three-year veteran, remain off the job with pay. Both men were relieved of duty shortly after the shooting last summer. Hogan, 37, a 14-year veteran now at the Santa Clarita Valley station, has continued working, Springs said.

Neither Hogan nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

The disciplinary moves are the first against deputies involved in four controversial shootings during a one-month period last summer.

The first was the Aug. 3 slaying of 19-year-old Arturo Jimenez at the Ramona Gardens housing project by Deputy Jason Mann. The Hamilton shooting on Aug. 13 was followed by the death of 15-year-old David Angel Ortiz, who was shot in Artesia on Aug. 28 by Deputy Jose Belmares. Steve Clemons, 28, was shot in Willowbrook Park on Labor Day by Deputy Michael Staley.

Although the county grand jury last month refused to bring criminal charges against any of the deputies, federal authorities are continuing to review the shootings for possible civil rights violations.

In the Ladera Heights incident, Hamilton was shot eight times in the back and once in the shoulder, apparently as he lay face down, according to the autopsy.

Deputies had been called after Hamilton's mother, Clara Maxie, complained that her son was disturbing the neighborhood. Residents said Hamilton, a former mental patient, was shouting profanities and screaming. The first deputies who responded said they found Hamilton pulling on the security bars on Maxie's back door.

According to the original sheriff's report, the first deputies asked for backup because Hamilton was armed with a knife. When other deputies arrived, he was hit twice with an electrical stun gun and in an ensuing fight with deputies, Hamilton was shot.

McCready fired six times and Enos fired three rounds from 9-millimeter pistols, authorities said.

The department later concluded that Hamilton was carrying a knife but never drew it.

Neither Enos nor McCready could be reached for comment, but their attorney disputed the account that Hamilton had been controlled by deputies when he was shot.

"(Hamilton) wasn't subdued by the stun gun," Shinee said. "He was an armed and dangerous mental patient who created a life-threatening danger to the deputies."

According to Shinee, the deputies will appeal their case to the chief of their region. "If the department does not change its position, we will pursue an appeal with the Civil Service Commission," he said.

An attorney for Hamilton's family could not be reached for comment.

In a separate case, a black South-Central Los Angeles man alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday that McCready and another deputy subjected him to racial epithets and beat him during an incident a year ago.

Robert Smith Jr., in an interview Tuesday, said he suffered a concussion, a broken wrist and numerous bruises and scrapes when he was pummeled by McCready and Thomas Carter in an alley. He said the deputies beat him with a flashlight and a baton while he lay face down.

"They hit me so much to where I felt like my brain started to mush," Smith said. "I felt the blood coming down the side of my face. It was like they were trying to kill me."

Smith, 31, said the beating was unprovoked. He said that on the night of Jan. 28, he was walking along Slauson Avenue with a just-purchased electric stun gun under his jacket. He said two deputies suddenly pulled up and that Carter jumped from the car with his gun raised. He said McCready, the driver, then ran around the car and swung a baton at him.

Smith's attorneys, Barry Silver and Joel Jacobs, said that although their client was charged with assaulting a peace officer, the charge was dismissed on Sept. 27, about a month after the Hamilton shooting.

McCready and Carter said in their reports that Smith threatened them with his stun gun as they were patrolling the area on a missing-person call. At one point, the deputies wrote, Smith stunned McCready with the gun and fought and kicked both of the deputies. They said they hit him half a dozen times for their own safety.

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