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LAPD Officer in Off-Duty Slaying Vows to Kill Self

Violence: Man surrenders after a standoff with police, who were called to his apartment on a domestic disturbance complaint.

July 21, 2001|DANIEL HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles police officer who killed a man in a controversial off-duty shooting earlier this week threatened to kill himself after an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend Thursday, police and witnesses said.

According to police, officers went to an apartment in the 7200 block of Stewart and Gray Road in Downey to investigate a report of domestic violence.

Downey Police Sgt. Patrick O'Brien confirmed that the suspect in the case was an off-duty LAPD officer but refused to name him. Law enforcement sources and witnesses, however, identified the man as Officer Edward Stepanian.

O'Brien said that the suspect was not arrested and that an investigation into the domestic violence allegation is continuing. He said there were no serious injuries in the incident but declined to release any other details.

Witnesses said officers, some armed with rifles, surrounded the apartment complex as they sought to negotiate Stepanian's surrender. The officer, they said, barricaded himself inside his apartment, armed with a gun and threatening to kill himself.

"It was pretty chaotic. I thought we were going to have gunshots. It was that intense," said one neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The police negotiated Stepanian's surrender over the telephone from an apartment a few doors away, witnesses said. Police negotiators reminded him that he has a son and that "he had a reason to live," one witness said.

According to one neighbor, Stepanian was concerned about how the police were going to document the incident in their reports. When he surrendered, he asked to be allowed to disguise his appearance as he was escorted to a patrol car.

Witnesses said the handcuffed Stepanian wore a red hat and a large flannel jacket when he emerged from the apartment.

"He was more embarrassed than anything else. He was concerned about people knowing what was going on," a neighbor said.

Stepanian, who was placed on administrative leave from the LAPD as a matter of standard practice after the shooting, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Lawrence Hanna, said he was unaware of the incident and had no comment.

Meanwhile, sheriff's investigators and LAPD detectives were continuing to examine the circumstance of the Monday morning shooting in which Stepanian killed 25-year-old Maziar Badie.

After the shooting, investigators indicated that they saw nothing to immediately contradict Stepanian's claim that he acted in self-defense. But Sheriff's Lt. Larry Lincoln, who is supervising the investigation, said Stepanian has refused to waive his right against self-incrimination and give detectives a voluntary statement.

"We have lots of questions," Lincoln said. "We'd really like to talk to him."

The Sheriff's Department is handling the investigation because the shooting occurred in West Hollywood, which the agency patrols.

LAPD internal affairs detectives, conducting their own administrative investigation, ordered Stepanian to give a statement or risk losing his job, said law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

Stepanian did give a statement to the LAPD, according to the sources. But the fruits of such a compelled statement cannot be used against the officer in a criminal prosecution.

One LAPD source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said investigators have evidence that contradicts Stepanian's account of the shooting.

Sheriff's Lt. Lincoln said he asked LAPD officials about potential evidence in the case but was told that information was confidential and part of an ongoing internal affairs inquiry.

The LAPD's practice of compelling officers to make statements that cannot be used against them in court is controversial among prosecutors because it can hinder potential criminal cases.

According to the account released by sheriff's officials on the day of the slaying, Stepanian shot Badie after the victim and another man allegedly attempted to rob the officer in a deserted parking lot about 4 a.m.

Some witnesses told sheriff's detectives that they saw Stepanian and his alleged assailants talking before the officer fired five shots at Badie.

Sheriff's investigators said they recovered a metallic weapon at the scene, in the 1300 block of Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Badie's friends and family have cast doubt on the robbery theory, saying he had no criminal record as an adult and did not want for money. They were planning to hold a vigil at the site of the shooting last night.

Attorney Bradley Brunon, representing a medical student who was a passenger in Badie's car, also denied that the two friends were attempting to rob Stepanian.

*

Times staff writers Scott Glover and Matt Lait contributed to this story.

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