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Wounded Deputy's Family, Peers Keep Vigil

The 13-year Sheriff's Department veteran was accidentally shot by a colleague in a gun battle with a suspect who was fatally wounded.

June 11, 2004|Nikki Usher, Zeke Minaya and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

A sheriff's deputy remained in extremely critical condition Thursday after a fellow deputy accidentally shot him during a gun battle at a motel in Hacienda Heights, officials said.

Detectives said they were investigating how the accident happened, and an official from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's office of independent review said training procedures could be changed.

"Right now, we're praying," said Sheriff's Homicide Bureau Capt. Ray Peavy. "It's in God's hands.... Everyone is very upset. We are going through a difficult time."

Michael R. Arruda, 35, a 13-year veteran of the force, was shot in the neck by a fellow deputy sheriff while confronting a man who was firing a pellet gun, investigators said. The deputy who shot Arruda was not identified.

Four deputies went to the Motel 6 near the Pomona Freeway around 10 p.m. Wednesday after receiving a call that Paul Smith, 51, of Whittier was shooting and threatening people, officers said. They said that when the deputies arrived at Smith's second-floor unit, where he had been living for about a year, the door was closed.

"He came out blazing," said Peavy, and the deputies returned fire. Smith was fatally wounded and Arruda was hit in the neck. Another deputy was hit by a pellet but was not seriously injured.

Arruda, who lost a lot of blood, was airlifted to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance. After hearing the news, deputies from across the county gathered at the hospital for support, said Lt. Tim Murakami, who worked with Arruda at the City of Industry substation.

"I got a phone call at home late at night and went straight to the hospital. There must have been 20 deputies there," Murakami said. Arruda's former wife and their 11-year-old son as well as the deputy's pregnant fiancee kept a vigil at the hospital.

Peavy said he could not recall a similar instance of a deputy being shot by a colleague.

"It's difficult right now, but it will only be more difficult if he does not make it," Peavy said.

Peavy said Smith fired several shots at deputies from a pellet gun that closely resembled a .40- caliber semiautomatic handgun. Peavy said the deputies, who heard popping noises and saw what appeared to be smoke emanating from the gun barrel, fired 10 rounds.

Arruda may have been dodging one of Smith's pellets and placed himself in the line of fire, the homicide captain said.

"They did the only thing that they could do, they reacted," Peavy said. "They were in very close quarters, and in the course of that reaction, one of our deputies was shot by another deputy. All they knew was that it was a violent person shooting at people for no reason," he said.

Smith was pronounced dead at the scene.

Peavy said a pellet can break the skin, but does not have the force of a bullet. A license is not required to buy a pellet gun.

Peavy said that the deputy who shot Arruda was devastated and that the entire department was unsettled by the shooting.

"Somber would be the best way to describe the mood of the department," Peavy said. "There's a lot of hope and lot of prayers, but right now it's uncertain."

Friends described Arruda as a personable, hardworking deputy. They said he was an avid runner and weight-lifter and had participated in the annual law enforcement Baker-to-Vegas relay race. A Massachusetts native, Arruda has endured some gentle ribbing for his slight Boston accent.

Arruda was looking forward to the birth of his second child, friends said. He and his fiancee, Sheriff's Sgt. Lydia Silva, also a member of the department, already had picked a name for the girl expected in about two months: Savannah.

"I've talked to him about how much he loves his son and how excited he was to have a daughter," Murakami said.

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