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Rival campers who opened fire turn out to be sheriff's deputies

Feuding L.A. County deputies, both off duty at Prado Regional Park, apparently didn't know they were colleagues.

August 26, 2013|By Robert Faturechi

An apparent booze-fueled dispute over loud music between two groups at a Chino campground over the weekend escalated to the point where men from both sides drew guns and opened fire.

No one was hurt, but the two alleged gunmen have plenty to explain.

It turns out that the rival gun-toting campers were both Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

Authorities suspect the off-duty cops learned they were colleagues only after their campground showdown.

Chino police officers were called to Prado Regional Park early Sunday morning. They arrested the deputies — Dejay Barber, 44, and Matthew Rincon, 24 — on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm.

Chino police Lt. Wes Simmons, when asked if he'd ever come across a similar scene, couldn't stifle a chuckle: "That's not fair for you to ask me that," he said, before acknowledging that he hadn't.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said both deputies have been relieved of duty with pay. He said the men brandished their guns in a "threatening manner."

They did not fire at each other, he said, but into the air.

"Alcohol is suspected," Whitmore said. "This is gross negligence."

It's unclear if there were other campers nearby when the off-duty deputies began shooting. Multiple rounds were fired.

"I don't know how many, but more than one," Whitmore said.

This isn't the first time in recent years that violence has broken out between deputies from the agency.

In 2009, a sergeant was accused of pointing a gun at the head of a fellow sergeant inside the Compton sheriff's station and mouthing, "I'm gonna kill you."

In 2010, a group of jail deputies brawled with two of their colleagues at a department Christmas party. At one point, a female deputy was punched in the face.

And last year, a deputy was accused of kicking another deputy in the groin without provocation. That came after she had been arrested the year before over suspicion of assaulting fellow deputies during an early-morning brawl at a La Mirada park where she and two colleagues were found bloodied and apparently drunk.

Whitmore said the department is taking the latest incident seriously.

One of the deputies works in the county courts, Whitmore said, and the other in the department's transit services division. The criminal investigation will be handled by the Chino police.

No press release was issued about the campground gunfire. The Times learned of the incident through a source.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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