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Deputies Wound Man in Needles

After a traffic stop, a passenger shoots himself. Officers fire into the car, hitting the man's unarmed brother. He is expected to survive.

March 09, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies conducting a late-night traffic stop shot and wounded an unarmed passenger in Needles on Monday after another man in the car waved a handgun and shot himself in the head, authorities said.

The back seat passenger with the gun, Jose Daniel Herrera, had told his brother there were warrants out for his arrest and vowed not to return to jail, a sheriff's spokesman said.

He pointed the gun at his head and fired, killing himself, the spokesman said.

Deputies then fired into the vehicle because they thought they were being fired upon, said sheriff's spokesman Chip Patterson.

They wounded Herrera's brother, Ruben Landa, who was in the front seat, he said.

Landa, 28, was flown by helicopter late Monday to a Las Vegas hospital and was expected to survive. Deputies said both brothers were from California.

Landa told sheriff's investigators that shortly before Herrera shot himself he said he did not want to return to jail.

A sheriff's spokesman said deputies were not immediately aware of any warrants for Herrera.

Investigators also said that 30 minutes earlier, Herrera had tried to shoot his former girlfriend in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

A sheriff's deputy stopped the Toyota Camry just before midnight on westbound Interstate 40 west of Park Moabi Road in Needles. The car had been traveling up to 100 mph and was being driven by a 20-year-old woman, Patterson said. He did not identify her.

Patterson said the deputy brought the driver to the patrol car to question her.

A second deputy then arrived. As the deputies walked toward the car, they saw "a gun being waved" by Herrera, Patterson said, and as they retreated to a patrol car, they heard a gun- shot.

"Rightfully so, the deputies returned fire from where the shot came from," Patterson said. "This appears to be justifiable use of force."

Investigators do not believe that the woman driving the car was aware Herrera had just tried to kill his girlfriend, he said. The woman was not held.

Herrera "asked the girl for a ride to go visit his son at his ex-girlfriend's, but when he arrived, the ex-girlfriend wouldn't let him see the son," Patterson said.

"So, at some point, he fired some shots at her, jumped in the car, and they fled, speeding at almost 100 mph."

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