A preliminary investigation by the Orange County district attorney's office has found that a deputy wounded in a gunfight with a bank robbery suspect last week was accidentally shot by a fellow officer, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
Doctors removed two pellets from below Deputy Jimmy Rubio's right eye in what sources said was a likely ricochet from another deputy's shotgun. The wound was not life-threatening and the deputy is expected to make a full recovery.
The conclusions, which have not determined whether sheriff's deputies' actions were at fault, shed more light on the wild gun battle Friday in a Dana Point neighborhood that left the bank robber dead.
Up to 100 rounds were fired as deputies armed with handguns, shotguns and high-powered rifles confronted James Titus Walker as he tried to escape through an apartment he had set ablaze.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 19, 2001 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 59 words Type of Material: Correction
Deputy--A headline in Wednesday's paper about a sheriff's deputy who was wounded in a gun battle with a bank robber incorrectly described the deputy's injury. Two shotgun pellets hit the deputy just below his right eye. The headline also incorrectly stated the source of a preliminary investigation that found the deputy was accidentally shot by a fellow officer. That information was provided by law enforcement sources.
Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo said sheriff's investigators also are reviewing the shooting. Deputies at the scene, he said, told investigators that Rubio might have been struck by friendly fire. So far, however, the department's probe has yet to draw any conclusions about what hit the deputy.
Nevertheless, Jaramillo warned against finding fault with deputies, who he said showed enormous courage in a deadly face-off.
"Regardless of what wounded the deputy, it was the action of a real dangerous criminal that created the deadly situation out there," Jaramillo said. "Thank God the deputy wasn't more seriously wounded."
A video recording of the shooting filmed by a neighbor suggests the suspect was unarmed by the time he was fatally wounded. Jaramillo said sheriff's investigators will review the footage but added that preliminary findings indicate that deputies acted properly.
A district attorney's spokeswoman declined to comment on any findings of the office into the shooting. District attorney's investigators probe nearly all officer-involved shootings in the county.
"We're still investigating this case and we can't comment until it's finished," office spokeswoman Tori Richards said. "It could take several months."
Authorities said Walker, 22, donned a mask and walked into the Bank of America at 11:22 a.m., demanding cash. He left minutes later carrying a semiautomatic gun and a bag of money, officials said.
After a brief chase, Walker fled into a first-floor apartment, where he piled mattresses against the door, then set them on fire in an effort to create a diversion. Walker eventually was shot in the head and torso in the shootout with deputies.
Only Rubio was wounded. He was treated at a hospital and released.
A source familiar with the district attorney's probe said investigators determined that Rubio was hit by shotgun pellets. Only deputies fired shotguns during the shootout.
Investigators, the source said, believe the pellets could have ricocheted off the apartment building, stairwell railings or a nearby wall.
"If it had come from a straight shot, he probably would have been wounded more," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.