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Police kill 2 burglary suspects

A third man is arrested in a Torrance manhunt. It is the third time in two weeks that the city's officers have been involved in a shooting.

July 16, 2007|Jack Leonard and Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writers

A manhunt for two residential burglary suspects in a Torrance neighborhood ended when police fatally shot two men hiding in a backyard, police said Sunday. It was the third shooting involving Torrance officers in two weeks.

Authorities identified the two men as Shaun Conely Devell McCoy, 22, of Adelanto, and Charlie Maurice Wilson, 20, of Gardena. A third man arrested during the manhunt was identified as Erin Jamahl Madden, a 19-year-old football player at Compton Community College.

Police refused to say whether any of the suspects were armed or why officers opened fire Saturday morning. Authorities said the three men match the general description of suspects sought in three Torrance burglaries that took place Friday. Those suspects were described as black men about 18 to 22 years old.

Torrance Police Chief John J. Neu said he could think of no similar string of officer-involved shootings in his 22 years with the department. Still, Neu said, he is convinced by the initial reports he has received from his investigators that no criminal misconduct was involved in the shootings. He said, however, that it is possible that tactical or procedural mistakes were made.

"We're not in the perfect business, we're in the human business, and mistakes are made at times," Neu said. "We have to be vigilant in our efforts to really scrutinize the actions of our officers."

He said the Los Angeles County district attorney's office will conduct its own investigations into possible misconduct, and that his department would then perform intensive internal reviews of the three cases.

The search that led to Saturday's shooting began about 10:29 a.m. after a neighbor called police and reported seeing two men ring the doorbell of a home on 231st Street, a few blocks west of Crenshaw Boulevard. The neighbor said the two men then jumped over a sideyard gate.

Torrance Police Lt. Rod Irvine said the suspects in Friday's burglaries also tried a home's front door before entering the backyard.

Many of the neighbors in the tidy, tight-knit cul-de-sac along 231st Street were at home or out in their frontyards gardening when officers arrived.

Neighbors told officers that a red Chevrolet Cavalier had just left the area and could have been involved, police said. The vehicle was stopped nearby. Madden, the driver, was taken into custody and was being held on suspicion of residential burglary.

Officers fanned out along the street, searching backyards with police dogs. A Long Beach Police Department helicopter hovered overhead.

Judy Cuthbertson, a Presbyterian pastor who lives on the street, said police searched her backyard along with others, loudly calling on the suspects to surrender and warning them that they had police dogs that probably would bite.

About 2:30 p.m., officers confronted two men hiding in a plastic backyard storage shed in a home several doors away from the yard where they were first seen, police said.

Curtis Amazaki, 36, who lives opposite the home that the men were hiding behind, said he heard about 10 gunshots.

On Sunday, Torrance police released new details about why officers opened fire on two other people this month.

In the first case, William Vasquez, 43, was fatally shot July 2 after police responded to a call about a man with knife cuts on his stomach who was threatening suicide. Irvine said officers shot after Vasquez broke out of a bedroom where he had barricaded himself and lunged with a knife at four officers who had been negotiating with him. Irvine said all four officers fired multiple shots simultaneously.

In the second case, Devion Daniels, 18, was shot and wounded several days later after allegedly leading police on a chase into L.A. After police stopped Daniels by ramming his car, he crawled out with a gun in hand, Irvine said. He said one Torrance officer fired multiple rounds, striking Daniels. Irvine said a loaded handgun was recovered near where Daniels was shot.

Irvine said all of the officers involved in both cases, after being put on paid administrative leave after the shootings, have been returned to active duty.

Madden, a football player who had attracted attention from colleges around the country, rushed for 1,475 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in the fall of 2005 at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana.

He went to San Bernardino Valley College in 2006, then transferred to Compton Community College. He reportedly has drawn the interest of numerous major four-year college football programs.

Two men who lived with Madden in Compton said they last saw him Friday, and said McCoy also played football last year at San Bernardino Valley College.

Dustin Blount, who played with both, said they were all struggling to survive while playing community college football.

"He would always make you laugh," Blount said of McCoy, whom friends knew as "Ty." "He was a good friend, but struggling like everyone else."

Jacoby Hammon, a defensive tackle, agreed. "We have no money to eat, no food, nothing," he said.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

stuart.silverstein@latimes.com

Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.

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