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O.C. Family Questions Police Shooting

The mother of a wounded bystander wants to know why there was a gunfight in a Santa Ana area filled with children.

January 29, 2003|Jennifer Mena and Mai Tran | Times Staff Writers

A day after a teenage bystander was hit by a stray bullet during a police shootout in Santa Ana, his family on Tuesday demanded to know why officers opened fire in a neighborhood filled with children walking home from school.

Carlos Castaneda, 15, was wounded in the leg as he walked toward a street vendor to buy a soda Monday, shot by police as they exchanged gunfire with an armed suspect fleeing down Van Ness Avenue, according to witnesses and authorities.

"We could use a little more information about what is happening," said Castaneda's mother, Maxima Rodriquez, who was at her son's bedside at UCI Medical Center Tuesday. "They say they are investigating, but we want to know what is going on."

Santa Ana police on Tuesday defended the actions of the officers involved in the midday incident, saying police fired in self-defense and only after the suspect shot at them.

The suspect, Elmer Bustos, 17, of Orange, was shot and killed by police less than a block from Willard Intermediate School about 30 minutes after classes had let out.

Bustos was on probation for an assault and battery conviction, said Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva, a police spokesman.

Shortly before the 2:50 p.m. shooting, the officers spotted Bustos walking near Van Ness and Washington avenues and left their patrol cars to question him, De La Riva said. According to terms of his probation, he was not allowed to be in that neighborhood. Bustos fled and fired at the officers, De La Riva said.

Investigators found Bustos' revolver on the sidewalk, De La Riva said.

The department provides regular training for officers on firearms and use of force but does not have a policy limiting the use of firearms near schools or crowded locations, he said.

"Every situation, every circumstance, every subject and every environment is different," De La Riva said. "The shooting policy indicates that an officer will take that action to overcome the resistance of a suspect. In this situation, the resistance was the subject firing his handgun at the officers."

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