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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Deputy Fired Shot at Guest at Wedding, Officials Say

Investigation: The man wounded during a reception in Fillmore was scuffling with his son when the shooting occurred.

May 22, 2000|DARYL KELLEY and TONY LYSTRA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

FILLMORE — A 51-year-old Fillmore man wounded during a struggle with his son at a wedding Saturday was apparently shot by a sheriff's deputy responding to a call to intervene in the fight, officials said Sunday.

Sheriff Bob Brooks said the shooting was justified because the patrol officer wounded Tony Morales when the man's son pointed a gun at her and then pulled his father into the line of fire, apparently to shield himself.

"We believe, and it's preliminary, that it was the deputy's bullet that struck him," Brooks said. "The indication is that the deputy saw the gun. The suspect turned the gun so it threatened the deputy. The deputy began to shoot and the suspect pulled the victim in the line of fire. There was one shot by the deputy."

Sheriff's investigators are still trying to determine the sequence of events, but early interviews show that the deputy, whose name was not released, acted appropriately, Brooks said.

"From everything we know at this stage, it's justified and within policy," the sheriff said.

Tony Morales was shot once in the upper torso, authorities said. He was taken to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital where he is in the intensive-care unit. A nursing supervisor declined Sunday to say what his condition was. Family members reached at home declined to comment.

Morales and his son, Chad, 26, were arguing outside the Veterans Memorial building during an evening wedding reception when Chad Morales left and returned shortly before 8:45 p.m. with a gun, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Eric Nishimoto. It was then that four deputies arrived, Nishimoto said.

As the argument continued, a shot was fired from Chad Morales' gun. One of the deputies put out the call that a shot had been fired and the female deputy confronted the battling son and father, officials said.

She then fired a round, officials said. Nishimoto did not know how close the deputies were to the father and son when the shooting started. Officials also did not know what caused the argument or how the father and son are related to the wedding party.

"All we know for sure is that the son was pretty belligerent," Nishimoto said.

Chad Morales was booked into Ventura County Jail on suspicion of assault with a firearm, exhibiting a firearm in the presence of officers and carrying a loaded firearm, a jail spokeswoman said. His bail was set at $50,000. Morales is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

About 200 people were at the reception in the veterans hall and at least a dozen were outside when the shots were fire, authorities said. Investigators questioned those and other witnesses throughout the weekend.

Brooks said the deputy has been with the Sheriff's Department for a few years and on patrol for about a year. Authorities could not confirm whether the deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave, standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

The last shooting by a deputy was in 1998, when deputies in Thousand Oaks shot a Camarillo man who waved a knife at officers.

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