Following an official review, a Los Angeles police captain said Wednesday his patrol officers had complied with department policy in a high-speed chase that ended when a fleeing burglary suspect broadsided a car carrying three teen-age boys, killing them.
"The officers did everything they were supposed to do," said LAPD Capt. Richard Eide, who commands patrol officers at the Van Nuys Division where the pursuit took place. "They were out doing their job.
"The suspect caused the accident running from the cops and there was nothing we could do about it," Eide said.
Killed in the crash were Manuel Osorio, 18, and his younger brother Fernando, 16, both of Arleta, and their friend Rafael Camargo Dawe, 17, of Van Nuys. Family and friends said that before the crash, the boys had just finished getting something to eat and were on their way to Rafael's apartment.
Moments earlier, police had launched a pursuit after spotting a man trying to break into Mel's Drive-In on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. When the suspect, identified as Oscar Orlando Argueta, 28, of Los Angeles, saw the officers, he jumped into his car and headed north on Kester Avenue with officers in pursuit, police said.
Police officials said the patrol officers backed off the pursuit after being informed by a police helicopter pilot that there was traffic ahead.
Eide said the officers made an almost complete stop on Kester at Vanowen Street to avoid a car crossing the intersection. Argueta sped ahead on Kester to Sherman Way, where he crashed into the car bearing the teen-agers, Eide said.
Argueta was listed in stable, but fair condition Wednesday, police said.
Eide said he reviewed a department report on the pursuit Wednesday morning and attached his conclusion that the officers did not violate LAPD policy. The report will also be reviewed by other top LAPD officials, any one of whom may disagree with Eide's findings.
Friends and relatives of the Osorio brothers were grappling Wednesday with the loss of the inseparable siblings.
"We loved them so very, very much," said a sobbing Elva Osorio, the 38-year-old aunt of the brothers. "The police should have been more careful. . . . the boys were just starting to live their lives."
Elva Osorio said the family is considering legal action.
"Nothing is going to bring them back," she said, "but at least we want to bring a stop to this so that other innocent victims don't get killed."
* LOST POTENTIAL: World robbed of a gifted writer. B5