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Inglewood officers identified

Eight are named in the fatal shooting of a homeless man.

September 06, 2008|Jack Leonard and Ari B. Bloomekatz | Times Staff Writers

After days of delay, Inglewood police officials on Friday identified the eight officers involved in last weekend's fatal shooting of a homeless man who had a toy gun in his waistband.

All of the officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation into the shooting, police officials said. They will also be required to undergo "supplemental training" before being allowed back into field assignments.

Those identified were: Officers Max Koffman, a 17-year police veteran; Loren Robinson, a 10 1/2-year veteran; John Baca, an eight-year veteran; Caroline Amezcua, a five-year veteran; Christopher Anderson, a one-year veteran; Ryan Green, a one-year veteran; Zerai Massey, a 5 1/2-year veteran; and Sgt. Matt Hart, a 20-year veteran.

The officers fired as many as 47 rounds at Eddie Felix Franco on Sunday after he appeared to go for a gun in his waistband, police said. The object turned out to be a realistic-looking toy gun, police said.

Franco's death was the fourth fatal shooting by Inglewood police in as many months. Three of the four killed were unarmed, police said.

Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks drew criticism this week for failing to publicly address the shooting or to release details quickly. When she spoke out Thursday, four days after the shooting, she said she withheld the officers' names so that investigators could make certain they knew which officers at the scene had fired their weapons.

Among the department's recent critics, Donald Nicholson, vice chairman of the city's citizen police oversight commission, said that releasing the officers' names was "a step in the right direction."

"Change starts from the bottom up and not the top down," Nicholson said. "I think our city government, our city administrators are reacting to the community asking for information."

Police said that none of the officers involved in Franco's shooting participated in the three other shootings, the first of which occurred in May.

Two of the officers, however, were involved in other fatal shootings in recent years, according to law enforcement records reviewed by The Times.

In May 2007, Massey shot and killed an unarmed man, Richard Tyson, records show.

According to a memo by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Massey and another officer had seen Tyson riding a bicycle on the sidewalk and ordered him to stop.

The officers recognized Tyson as a gang member, the memo said, and later told investigators they saw him reach for a bulge in his waistband and believed they saw a gun.

After a chase, Massey found him hiding behind a bush. The officer said he shouted at Tyson to stay on the ground and show his hands, but Tyson advanced toward him and moved his hands toward his waistband and started to tuck them into his sweat shirt. Massey fired six shots, hitting him in several places, including his back and torso.

No weapon was found on Tyson. Instead, officers discovered a packaged T-shirt in the front center pocket of his sweat shirt.

Tyson's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Massey and the Inglewood Police Department, alleging that the shooting was unprovoked.

In April, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Massey, concluding that Tyson's actions were "consistent with a person who was armed and dangerous" and that the officer's "response with deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances."

In a January 2004 shooting, Koffman was among nine officers who gunned down Robert Michael Robbins in the parking lot of a motel.

District attorney's records show that Robbins was wanted in a double slaying in Ventura County that occurred a year earlier. Sheriff's homicide detectives there sought the help of Inglewood police to arrest Robbins and warned officers that he was probably armed.

The officers attempted to arrest Robbins as he left the motel and climbed into his GMC Yukon. They opened fire when Robbins reversed the vehicle toward officers. After one volley of shots, an officer repeatedly said, "He's still moving!" and officers opened fire again. Robbins was struck three times in the head.

A district attorney memo makes no mention of a weapon being found on Robbins. But prosecutors concluded Koffman and other officers "fired their weapons in self-defense and the defense of each other."

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Victoria Kim contributed to this report.

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