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Family Says Slain Man Was Unarmed


Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies wrongfully gunned down a man who died during a shootout in the Walnut Park area that also claimed the life of deputy, the man's family said Wednesday.

R. Samuel Paz, an attorney representing the wife and children of Homero Isidoro Ibarra, 30, said Ibarra was unarmed and was complying with the deputies' commands to walk out with his hands raised when he was shot to death Sunday night behind a garage in the 2500 block of Cass Place.

The Sheriff's Department says that Ibarra was armed with a gun and came out of the garage firing the weapon.

The brief but intense gun battle also claimed the life of Nelson H. Yamamoto, 26, the first county sheriff's deputy to die in hostile action since 1989. Deputies say they are still searching for two other men--one of whom is wanted in connection with a murder in North Hollywood and two other murders in El Salvador--who escaped during Sunday's shootout.

Paz said Maria Ibarra and her three children will file a wrongful-death complaint with the Sheriff's Department.

Department spokesmen said they could not respond in detail to the family's accusations until they see the complaint.

According to the department, the incident began at 8:10 p.m. Sunday when Yamamoto and two other deputies from the Firestone station responded to a call that men with guns had been threatening a resident on Cass Place. Officers said they were directed to the garage at the rear of a home, peered through a window and saw at least two men inside with guns.

The officers said that when they ordered the men to come outside with their hands up, two came out in the dark with guns blazing.

Deputies said that one of the men--Cesar Uriel Mazariego-Molina, 26, the one wanted in the three murders--fired the shots that fatally wounded Yamamoto before escaping over a fence. The officers said the other--Ibarra--was shot to death.

A third suspect--Juan Manuel Mazariego, 22, Mazariego-Molina's cousin--escaped during the confusion, the officers said.

After talking to two of Ibarra's children and 17-year-old Frankie Soto, all of whom he said witnessed the shootout, Paz gave a somewhat different version of what happened Sunday night in the garage at the rear of the Ibarra family home.

Paz said Ibarra, who barely knew the cousins, invited them to join him for a beer in the garage.

"He was just a nice guy, trying to be pleasant," the lawyer said. "When he heard the deputies shout, 'Everybody come out with their hands up!' he complied.

"Ibarra fell to the ground, and Mazariego-Molina ran past him, shooting," Paz added. "Mazariego-Molina kept running, and he got away. At the same time, the cousin ran out through the house, and he escaped, too."

Asked Tuesday night if Ibarra might have been trying to surrender, Sheriff Sherman Block repeated the department's contention that Ibarra was armed and was considered a suspect. Block could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Responding to Block's contention that Ibarra was armed, Paz said that no gun was found. Asked about this, a spokesman for the department said Wednesday that he could only refer to the statement that Block had made the night before.

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