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Bystander Killed; Police Bullet Blamed : Violence: San Diego authorities believe woman was hit when officers fired on a man who brandished a gun. The suspect may be charged with murder.

January 13, 1994|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Bullets apparently fired from an officer's gun killed an innocent bystander during a shootout with a suspect on a downtown street Tuesday, a San Diego Police Department spokesman said Wednesday.

The shooting occurred at 4:40 p.m. amid rush-hour traffic in front of a crowded residential hotel. Two bicycle-riding officers confronted a suspect who investigators said provoked the melee by pointing a .45-caliber handgun at police after waving it on a crowded street corner.

Moments later, Gina Liucija Kisielius, 33, stumbled into the lobby of the Golden West Hotel on 4th Avenue, crying and bleeding, according to a longtime resident of the hotel, Lance Corbett, 46. Kisielius, also a hotel tenant, collapsed on the floor and died, Corbett said.

Kisielius had lived for years in the turn-of-the-century single-room-occupancy building, which serves as a home largely to retirees and people with disabilities on fixed incomes.

Police arrested Enrique Leon, 42, on suspicion of murder. Leon was reported to be in fair condition Wednesday with at least three gunshot wounds. Police said he would be charged with murder. Such charges can be filed against someone who commits a crime that results in the death of another person, officials said.

Police declined to say Wednesday whether Leon fired first--or at all--although they said witnesses reported that Leon was the first to fire shots. Homicide Lt. Greg Clark said police would not conclusively rule on whether the officers killed Kisielius until all ballistics tests were complete.

But it was probable, Clark said, that police gunfire felled the woman, who was standing on the sidewalk in front of the hotel when officers began firing the first of 13 rounds from five yards behind the gunman.

Clark said the officers involved in Tuesday's shootout have been placed on administrative leave, pending a full investigation by the department's internal affairs unit and the district attorney.

The San Diego Police Department appointed a citizen review board to study officer-involved shootings after a wave of incidents involving deadly force prompted a call for action in 1990.

In that year alone, police killed nine people and wounded 14 others. Among those killed were men wielding a garden tool, a trowel and a baseball bat. Another man was unarmed.

In Escondido, in north San Diego County, a reworking of the city Police Department's training and regulations regarding hostage situations followed the 1983 death of Leslie Landersman, who was killed by police while being held hostage by a bank robber. She was mistakenly slain in a gun battle.

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