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Police fatally shoot man in car

Inglewood officers reportedly thought they were under fire. No weapons are found.

May 12, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz, Julie Cart and Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writers

Believing they were under fire, Inglewood police officers Sunday shot and killed a passenger in an approaching car and wounded the driver, but no weapons were found and no one has been charged, authorities said.

The passenger was identified as 19-year-old Michael Byoune of Los Angeles, who died at the scene from gunshot wounds to the torso, said Los Angeles County coroner's investigator Jerry McKibben.

The officers were in their patrol car near Crenshaw Boulevard and 8th Avenue about 1:40 a.m. when they heard gunfire and pursued a man who was running, said Inglewood Police Sgt. Hector Ramirez.

The man jumped into a slow-moving car in the 3000 block of Manchester Boulevard, and the officers heard more shots and felt something hit their cruiser, Ramirez said.

The officers then fired several shots as the vehicle came toward them, according to police. The driver is in stable condition with a leg wound, and a third man in the car was not injured. He was taken into custody, questioned and released, police said.

Police Sgt. Dennis Brown later said the patrol car had not been hit by gunfire. Investigators initially indicated that the incident might have been gang-related, but later said the three men were not suspected gang members.

At a small vigil for Byoune on Sunday night, his mother, Jackie Roberts, 55, said her son had never been to jail and was not involved in violence or gangs.

"Right now it's Mother's Day. Last year on Mother's Day he was there for me. Now he's not here and I won't see him no more," she said.

Other family members described Byoune as "a big teddy bear" and said they were confused over the shooting.

At a Rally's restaurant at Crenshaw and Manchester boulevards, night manager Vidal Garcia said he "heard a lot of gunshots" and was surprised police didn't find any weapons "because there were gunshots before the cops even got there."

Another Rally's employee, who feared getting involved and asked not to be identified, said from his vantage point he saw only the police taking out their guns. He and two co-workers ducked as soon as they heard gunfire, and after more than 15 shots, he heard screaming, he said.

The employee said he recalled hearing "Oh, I can't breathe" and "I'm not armed." The restaurant is about 30 yards from where the police opened fire.

A manager at the adjacent Big Lots discount store said police did not ask for tapes from the store's outside security cameras.

Reached at her home, Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks declined to discuss the shooting. "This is not the time to call," she said, adding that it was not a business day.

In officer-involved shootings, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office sends a team to the scene, according to spokeswoman Jane Robison. The team, which includes a prosecutor and an investigator, "conducts a parallel investigation" to the police probe. If there are discrepancies between the findings, the district attorney's office investigates further, Robison said.

Over the last decade, the Inglewood Police Department has been dogged by scandal, including a nationally publicized 2002 videotaped beating of a handcuffed teenager and 2006 allegations of on-duty officers committing rape.

Last year, The Times reported that federal investigators were looking into allegations that at least six current or former Inglewood officers had received sexual services at local massage parlors.

In 2002, Inglewood police arrested and handcuffed 16-year-old Donovan Jackson for failing to comply with orders. After the teenager was handcuffed, one of the officers picked him up and slammed him against a patrol car.

The scene was captured on video, and national media compared the incident to the 1991 Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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julie.cart@latimes.com

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hector.becerra@latimes.com

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