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Sniper Was Texas Drifter

Henry Lee Brown, 52, a disabled Vietnam veteran, wounded three people before a deputy shot him to death in an Orange County canyon.

June 15, 2004|Mai Tran and Kevin Pang | Times Staff Writers

Authorities on Monday identified a sniper who wounded three people in a remote Orange County canyon Saturday as a disabled Vietnam veteran and drifter from San Antonio.

Henry Lee Brown, 52, was killed by a deputy firing from a helicopter after a four-hour gun battle near a recycling plant at Silverado Canyon and Santiago Canyon roads in the Santa Ana Mountains, officials said.

An autopsy was conducted Monday, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said. But results won't be final until coroners complete toxicology tests, which will take about six weeks.

Investigators identified Brown through FBI fingerprint records, Amormino said. He had a criminal record, with charges for carrying concealed weapons in Ohio and Florida. Officials in those states could not immediately confirm those charges or provide details Monday.

Some canyon residents said they had seen Brown -- whose last known address was a group home in San Antonio -- begging for food and money in the area, Amormino said. But investigators do not know how he got to Orange County.

Investigators believe Brown may have been the man who frightened a canyon resident Thursday by peering through her window.

She also told deputies that someone shot at her later that day while she was practicing at a shooting range. Brown generally fits the description she gave of a middle-aged African American man.

Investigators say Saturday's incident began after Brown fired 15 shots at two employees of the recycling plant shortly after 11 a.m., grazing one of them. The two men fled in a truck and called 911 on a mobile phone.

Brown continued to fire a barrage of bullets after deputies arrived, striking Deputy Jerry Larson twice in the upper body. As more deputies combed the thick brush on horseback and from the air, Brown also struck the leg of a deputy who was piloting a helicopter.

The pilot, Deputy David Tilstra, continued to fly until another deputy in the helicopter was able to shoot Brown, who was hiding behind brush in a creek bed about two miles into Baker Canyon.

Both wounded deputies have been treated and released from the hospital.

Investigators are on their way to San Antonio to interview family members in hopes of determining his motive, Amormino said.

"We don't know why he did what he did," Amormino said. "We don't know how he got out here, we don't know if he had some mental problems. There's still a lot of questions."

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