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Ventura County

Firefighter Avoids Charges in Death

Courts: Prosecutors say William Oney of Simi Valley shot his stepson's father in self-defense.

January 23, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against a firefighter arrested last fall in connection with the fatal shooting of his wife's unarmed ex-boyfriend in Simi Valley.

William Oney, 29, told investigators he acted in self-defense when he fired a .45-caliber handgun at Todd Thies, a 31-year-old construction worker, after a child custody dispute at Oney's home.

Chris Harman, a Ventura County senior deputy district attorney, said Tuesday that after a three-month investigation, prosecutors could find no evidence to dispute Oney's account.

"All I can tell you is, we reviewed the facts of the case," Harman said. "It was justifiable self-defense."

Harman declined to discuss specific facts, but noted that Oney had state law on his side.

Under the 1984 Home Protection Bill of Rights, a homeowner can use deadly force if he has a reasonable fear of imminent peril from someone who is not a member of the household and who enters unlawfully or by force.

According to Simi Valley police, Thies was shot once about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17, shortly after he arrived to pick up his 4-year-old son.

Neighbors reported hearing a woman scream and a gunshot from inside the family's single-story house in the 3100 block of Waco Drive.

Heidi Oney, 28, called 911 to report the dispute as the shot was fired, officials said.

Witnesses said Oney, a Los Angeles County firefighter who was off duty at the time, walked out of the house with his hands above his head and surrendered to officers. Thies, who was unarmed, died at the scene.

Oney was released two days later after prosecutors said they needed additional time to investigate before deciding whether to press charges.

On Tuesday, Oney appeared briefly in Ventura County Superior Court. He was not represented by a lawyer and left the courtroom immediately after Harman told Judge Glen Reiser that no charges would be filed.

Oney has been on paid administrative leave from the Fire Department. An internal investigation that started immediately after the shooting is continuing, said Fire Inspector Michael Brown.

It is unclear when the investigation will be completed, but fire officials said possible outcomes could include reinstatement or probation.

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Times staff writer Holly J. Wolcott contributed to this report.

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