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Freeway pursuit ends in youth's death as LAPD fires 90 shots

Grieving family describes Abdul Arian as being 'afraid of guns,' but details of his life paint a clouded portrait ending in gunfire on the Ventura Freeway.

April 13, 2012|By Thomas Curwen and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • LAPD officers watch as a tow truck removes a former patrol car driven by Abdul Arian during a police chase.
LAPD officers watch as a tow truck removes a former patrol car driven by Abdul… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

The family of Abdul Arian remembered the 19-year-old young man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police officers after a high-speed chase Thursday morning for his desire to become a police officer.

"He wanted to be an LAPD cop," said Hamed Arian, the youth's uncle, "and the LAPD killed him."

But as details of Arian's life emerge, the picture of his ambitions becomes more complicated. A police narrative of the shooting on the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills suggests a troubled end for the young man who placed a 911 call during the pursuit and told authorities he was armed with a gun.

Police did not recover a gun from the scene.

Speaking to the media gathered at the Arian home in Woodland Hills in the aftermath of the shooting, Hamed Arian described his nephew as someone who neither drank nor did drugs and who was "afraid of guns."

Arian's Facebook page suggests something different. "Just came back from the shooting range," he wrote to friends April 5. An enlarged photo of a police car with its lights on — as seen from a rear-view mirror — is posted on his page.

Hamed Arian said he last saw his nephew at 6 p.m. Wednesday when he took off for the gym, where he typically lifted weights and had a trainer.

Almost four hours later, police said, they noticed Arian driving erratically near the Northridge Fashion Center and tried to pull him over. But he refused, instead taking them on a high-speed pursuit through city streets before pulling onto the Ventura Freeway.

He drove a black Crown Victoria, which his uncle said was a retired police cruiser that had been purchased at an auction.

During the chase, Arian called 911, and according to a partial transcript of the call released by the LAPD, he claimed to have a gun and made threats to the police.

"I have been arrested before for possession of destructive devices, I'm not afraid of the cops," he told the dispatcher. "If they pull their guns, I'm going to have to pull my gun out on them."

The dispatcher, according to the release, pleaded for Arian to surrender, saying "I don't want you to hurt yourself."

Abdul responded with expletives and warned that the police are "going to get hurt."

Hamed Arian was watching the incident unfold on television with Arian's parents, Shapour and Deena Arian, and believed his nephew was afraid because he was being pursued by police.

The Arian family came to the United States from Afghanistan about 20 years ago, he said. He said his nephew attended Pierce College, but a representative for the school had no record of a student enrolled under that name.

The uncle also said that Arian had been a part of the LAPD Explorer academy. Police confirmed that Arian was enrolled in the academy, but said he was removed before graduation for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

As Arian's family watched on television, the pursuit continued onto the eastbound 101 near Canoga Avenue. After cutting across lanes, Arian stopped, jumped out of his car and began running on the freeway. Facing police while back-stepping, he extended both arms with clasped hands, a gesture captured on video by a KTLA-TV news helicopter and interpreted by family friend Ray Karimee as "pleading."

"I think he was afraid," Karimee said.

But as Arian headed toward the shoulder of the freeway in the vicinity of a vehicle that had pulled over, he turned again and assumed what police called a "shooting stance." He appeared to wield a weapon. His uncle believed it was a cellphone. Sources familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly confirmed that it was a cellphone.

Eight Los Angeles police officers fired more than 90 rounds, killing him.

The department's force investigation division kept the freeway closed all night as it collected evidence and conducted interviews. Department officials will review several factors related to the incident, including communication tactics and whether the large number of rounds fired endangered other freeway motorists.

When asked if this may have been a case of suicide by cop, LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said, "It's certainly bizarre behavior, and it ended in a tragic situation for all involved."

According to Hamed Arian, the youth was looking forward to attending a friend's wedding this weekend.

"We are all devastated," said the uncle, who went to the site of the shooting in the morning and identified Arian to the investigator with the coroner's office. "We lost a young man who was a really good kid."

thomas.curwen@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Times staff photographer Al Seib contributed to this report.

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