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FBI Agent Kills Himself After His Arrest

December 02, 1997|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two hours after being released from a Manhattan Beach jail following an arrest on suspicion of attempted carjacking, assault and public drunkenness, an FBI agent shot himself to death in front of El Segundo police, authorities said Monday.

Steven Semon, 28, shot himself about 5:25 p.m. Sunday at the beach by the Southern California Edison power plant in El Segundo, police said.

Semon, an FBI agent for a year, had been released by Manhattan Beach police at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. He had been arrested about 2:30 a.m. Sunday after putting a gun to the head of an acquaintance, police said.

"It appeared to officers that Semon was under the influence of alcohol and/or a combination of drugs," Manhattan Beach police Sgt. Tony DiGenova said. "We don't know. His behavior turned out to be rather bizarre."

The FBI announced Monday that it had launched an investigation into Semon's death. "This whole thing is tragic for everyone involved," said John Hoos, the FBI's spokesman in Los Angeles. "For law enforcement, for the FBI and, most of all, for [Semon's] family members."

Semon's relatives, who gathered Monday at the family home in Torrance, declined to comment.

Semon, who lived in El Segundo, joined the FBI in July 1996. After initial training, he was assigned in November 1996 to the bureau's Los Angeles office and to a white-collar crime detail, Hoos said.

About 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Manhattan Beach police were summoned to Rosecrans and Pacific avenues.

There, they found Semon with a gun. "He was holding a gun with his hands up in the air," DiGenova said. "Officers requested that he drop the gun and apparently he refused. The instructions were repeated several times" before Semon "finally complied," dropping the gun and laying down.

When he was taken into custody, Semon said he was an FBI agent, Manhattan Beach police spokeswoman Mary Laquet said. Officers then pieced together this version of events:

Semon had gone out Saturday night to a hockey game and then to a sushi bar in Hermosa Beach with a friend, Jumpie Tomonaga, 32, of Torrance.

In Hermosa Beach, they met a friend of Tomonaga, Koji Kaneshiro, 26, of Torrance. Neither Tomonaga nor Kaneshiro could be reached Monday for comment.

Leaving Hermosa Beach, the three men headed for El Segundo in two cars--Tomonaga and Semon in the lead car, Kaneshiro following by himself.

At the intersection of Rosecrans and Pacific, Semon jumped out of the lead car and walked back to Kaneshiro's blue 1990 Mercury Sable.

"For reasons unknown," DiGenova said, "[Semon] pointed the gun at him and ordered him out of the car."

Kaneshiro got out of the car. Semon, however, did not drive off in the Mercury. But he did rifle through it, Laquet said.

Kaneshiro, meanwhile, fled and ran into a group out for a walk. Shortly thereafter, police were called.

Semon was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted carjacking, brandishing a firearm at a police officer and public drunkenness, DiGenova said.

Two hours after Semon posted bail and walked out of the Manhattan Beach lockup facility, El Segundo police tracked him down at the beach by the Edison plant. They had been told of a note found by Semon's roommate. In a statement released Monday, El Segundo police called the note a "handwritten 'will' " and said the roommate had "become concerned for [Semon's] safety."

Officers found Semon by some rocks. Then they heard a gunshot and saw him fall, El Segundo Police Lt. David Barkdull said.

Semon shot himself in the right temple with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, El Segundo police said. He was pronounced dead at Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center in Hawthorne, police said.

DiGenova said he had spoken Monday with Semon's roommate. "He said what happened was totally out of character."

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