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Pasadena police seek outside review of fatal officer-involved shooting

The family of Leroy Barnes Jr., 38, killed in February, expressed dissatisfaction with the department's own investigation of the incident. The police chief has asked two outside groups to review it.

April 01, 2009|Victoria Kim

Federal authorities and a local law enforcement watchdog group are looking into February's fatal shooting of a man by Pasadena police, officials said Tuesday.

Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian said at a news conference that he had requested the FBI's civil rights division and the county's Office of Independent Review to investigate the Feb. 19 shooting, in which two officers fired 11 shots at parolee Leroy Barnes Jr., 38.

"If they come back and say there was a problem, we'll deal with it," Melekian said.

Melekian said the department's own preliminary investigation showed that the officers shot Barnes in self-defense after he pulled a gun out of a backpack and pointed it at an officer's face.

"Mr. Barnes died as a consequence of his own decisions and actions," Melekian said, reading from a prepared statement.

Family members, who had been given a private briefing by police on the investigation, said Tuesday they were dissatisfied with the police findings.

"It was their way of covering up what they did," said Detrick Bright, mother of Barnes' 9-year-old daughter.

"You don't shoot somebody in the car, disable them, and keep shooting."

Barnes' 18-year-old daughter, Mayleisha, said she was upset by references to Barnes' long criminal record.

"That didn't mean nothing, for him to be murdered," said Mayleisha, who was wearing a T-shirt with photos of her father and "RIP DADDY" written across the back. "He was a family man."

According to the account released by the department Tuesday, two officers initially spotted a group of suspected gang members standing around a car. They became suspicious when the group looked in their direction and began to disperse, officials said. Barnes quickly got into the back seat of the vehicle and the car drove away.

Officers turned on their car's siren and stopped the vehicle for driving on the wrong side of the street. As officers approached, they saw that Barnes had his hand in a blue backpack. Officers grabbed his arms and struggled with him in the back seat of the car.

The department said Barnes then pulled out his hand, revealing a gun, and pointed it at an officer, who fired one shot. The officer then fired a second round at Barnes after he stepped out of the car. Barnes fell to the pavement, and both officers continued to fire because he was still armed, police said.

The department had planned to release at Tuesday's news conference the names of the two officers involved, but a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Monday granted a request from the officers' union for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the department from identifying them.

Family members said they were told by police that the involved officers were a 14-year veteran and a 14-month trainee.

Melekian declined to comment on the officers' experience, saying the court order covered all identifying information. The Pasadena Star-News reported Tuesday that one of the officers was involved in a non-fatal shooting earlier this year.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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