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Ventura County

Oxnard Police Shooting Justified, Report Says

Probe: Prosecutors find that two officers who fatally shot a suspected serial robber in July were acting in self-defense.

December 18, 2001|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oxnard police were justified when they fatally shot a suspected serial robber in July after the 27-year-old man tried to hold up the same doughnut shop for the sixth time, wrestled a handgun from the clerk and ran toward officers staking out the shop, prosecutors reported Monday.

The district attorney's office concluded that Officers Timothy Kelley and Jack Kujawa had no choice but to shoot Larry Gene Brown. Prosecutors say Brown, a homeless ex-felon, robbed Poster's Donuts four times in June, hit again July 11 and returned two nights later.

Brown was shot five times by officers and was struck twice by shots fired while wrestling with clerk Bunthoeuth Deuk, who said he had armed himself after being robbed five times by Brown in one month, including twice the same night.

"Officers Kelley and Kujawa were legally justified in using deadly force to defend themselves against the very real potential of an imminent deadly assault," the report said. "Bunthoeuth Deuk acted in self defense."

Suspect Never Fired Clerk's Gun

Although Brown never fired the weapon, officers said he pointed Deuk's handgun at them, and the weapon was found next to Brown after he fell near doughnut display cases at the front of the store, the report said. The gun was later found to be empty.

"He was carrying the gun as he ran through the store; it was found under his body," Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Holmes said.

Brown, convicted of robbery in 1995, was arrested five times last year on drug charges.

He was also suspected of robbing a second Oxnard doughnut shop the day before he was killed.

Police had identified Brown as their key suspect days before he was shot, because Deuk had pointed him out in a photo lineup.

After Poster's Donuts was robbed a fifth time on July 11, the Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit staked out the Magnolia Street shop, only to have the robber strike the next night two miles away at Master's Donuts on Ventura Road, the report said. So on July 13, special enforcement officers staked out both shops.

"The plan was that if the suspect entered either store, officers would allow the robbery to take place, wait for the suspect to leave the store, then make an arrest," the report said. "The officers reasoned that if they were to enter the store during the robbery, they would create a hostage situation."

Police did not anticipate a struggle. But the night of the shooting, Deuk said, Brown rushed him and grabbed him by the neck with both hands. Deuk told police he was so afraid that his hands were shaking. "I have nightmares and flashbacks," he said. "I dream about the robbery and wake up and sweat."

Police heard two shots and a scream, rushed the shop and shot Brown, the report said.

Oxnard police have shot and killed five crime suspects this year and wounded another--an extraordinarily high number of police shootings. But county prosecutors have found that four of the fatal shootings and the officer-involved wounding were justified. Prosecutors are still investigating the fifth fatal shooting, the most controversial.

4 Agencies Looking Into Separate Case

In August, officers killed Robert Lee Jones, 23, while the emotionally upset former art student was hiding in his bedroom closet. Four local, state and federal agencies are investigating the case.

Holmes said that the Jones investigation is still months from completion because of the discovery of new information by Oxnard police and the assignment of a different prosecutor to the case.

"We're getting some additional reports from Oxnard," Holmes said. "They tell us there is [something new], that they're looking into some other matters, and we're awaiting some additional reports."

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