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Ventura Police Defend Fatal Shooting of Teen

Crime: The officer 'had no time for talking' after the 19-year-old car theft suspect pulled a knife during a struggle in a parking lot, officials say.

April 06, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura police said one of their detectives had no choice but to fatally shoot a teenager suspected of car theft once he pulled a knife during a fight with the officer in the parking lot of a downtown motel.

"There was just no time for talking. They were less than 3 feet away" from each other, Police Sgt. Brock Avery said Friday. "The officer was close and the threat was immediate."

The suspect, 19-year-old Randy Reeves of Ventura, was dead when the ambulance reached Ventura County Medical Center Thursday shortly after the 7 p.m. shooting.

An autopsy Friday revealed that Reeves died from a gunshot wound to the chest, said Senior Deputy Medical Examiner James Baroni. Reeves was also shot in his left leg, Baroni said.

The officer who fired his automatic pistol outside Topper Motel & Liquor Store on Thompson Boulevard was placed on paid leave, a standard procedure.

The names of the detective and his partner are expected to be released today, Avery said.

The two uniformed detectives had been investigating Reeves for two weeks in connection with the theft of a vehicle and possessing stolen mail and personal checks, Avery said.

The stolen car was recovered before the shooting, and its owner had identified Reeves as the suspect.

The detectives were tipped off that Reeves had frequented the motel recently and were waiting to arrest him when he pulled into the parking lot driving a friend's Ford Bronco, Avery said.

An unidentified female passenger was taken to the police station for questioning and then released

Avery said the officers approached the SUV from each side and demanded that Reeves get out. Reeves tried to start the Bronco; then one officer attempted to open the driver's side door as Reeves pulled it shut.

The detective forced the door open and the two briefly struggled in the front seat before Reeves was shot, Avery said, adding that a knife was found inside the vehicle.

Investigators were still waiting Friday afternoon to get a search warrant to recover the knife from the vehicle, Avery said.

Court records indicate that Reeves served 10 days in Ventura County Jail for misdemeanor forgery in December and two days in February for misdemeanor petty theft.

Reeves, a Ventura High School graduate, recently worked as a telemarketer after earning an accounting certificate from Santa Barbara Business College, said his stepfather, Scott Allen of Bakersfield.

Reeves, whom Allen said loved soccer and earned a brown belt in karate, had lived with his grandparents in Ventura until recently.

"After the dust settles and we get over the shock of what happened, we will be able to evaluate the situation," said Allen, who lives with Reeves' mother and 3-year-old half brother.

"I can't see why he had to have been shot. If he was in some kind of trouble and they pulled a gun on Randy, he would have frozen."

This was the first officer-involved shooting by Ventura police since May 13, 2001, when a SWAT officer shot and killed a robbery suspect who was carrying an assault rifle.

It also was Ventura County's first fatal shooting involving law enforcement officers this year. The last one occurred on Oct. 14, when a Thousand Oaks man who had threatened to kill his wife was shot to death by county sheriff's deputies as he stood in his doorway holding a large kitchen knife.

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