Police investigators examine a blue pickup truck Thursday riddled with bullets on Redbeam Avenue in Torrance. Officers, thinking shooting suspect Christopher Dorner might have been in the vehicle, unleashed a fusillade, wounding a woman and her mother. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.
The truck was not a Nissan Titan, but a Toyota Tacoma. The color wasn’t gray, but aqua blue. And it wasn’t Dorner inside the truck, but Carranza and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.
Dorner manhunt: Officers opened fire on mother, daughter
In their pursuit of a fugitive ex-cop, at least seven officers opened fire on what turned out to be a mother and daughter delivering newspapers on a quiet residential street, law enforcement sources told The Times.
It was “a tragic misinterpretation” by officers working under “incredible tension,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Friday in an interview with The Times.
Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71, were the victims.
Early Thursday morning, Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, allegedly shot three police officers, one fatally. And, in an online posting authorities attributed to him, Dorner threatened to kill more police and seemed to take responsibility for the slaying over the weekend of the daughter of a retired LAPD captain and her fiance.
Then around 5 a.m. Thursday in Torrance, police from nearby El Segundo saw a pickup truck exit a freeway and head in the general direction of the Redbeam Avenue residence of a high-ranking Los Angeles police official, which was being guarded by a group of LAPD officers.
A radio call indicated that the truck matched the description of Dorner’s gray Nissan Titan.
As the vehicle approached the house, officers opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the back of the truck. When the shooting stopped, they quickly realized their mistake. The truck was not a Nissan Titan, but a Toyota Tacoma. The color wasn’t gray, but aqua blue. And it wasn’t Dorner inside the truck, but Carranza and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.
Beck and others stressed that the investigation into the shooting was in its infancy. They declined to say how many officers were involved, what kind of weapons they used, how many bullets were fired and, perhaps most important, what kind of verbal warnings — if any — were given to the women before the shooting began.
“How do you mistake two Hispanic women, one who is 71, for a large, black male?” said Richard Goo, 62, who counted five bullet holes in the entryway to his house.
Glen T. Jonas, the attorney representing the women, said the police officers gave “no commands, no instructions and no opportunity to surrender” before opening fire. He described a terrifying encounter in which the pair were in the early part of their delivery route through several South Bay communities. Hernandez was in the back seat handing papers to her daughter, who was driving. Carranza would briefly slow the truck to throw papers on driveways and front walks.
As bullets tore through the cabin, the two women “covered their faces and huddled down,” Jonas said. “They felt like it was going on forever.”
Hernandez was shot twice in her back and is expected to recover. Her daughter escaped with only minor wounds from broken glass.
Beck said he had not yet received a detailed briefing, which typically occurs a few days after officer-involved shootings to give investigators time to collect evidence and put together the basic summary of what happened. But he did say that the gunfire occurred in two bursts: The first came from an officer positioned down the block from the LAPD official’s residence, and the second when Carranza accelerated away from the gunfire and toward other officers.
After the investigation is completed, Beck and an oversight board will decide if officers were justified in the shooting or made mistakes that warrant either punishment or training.
— Joel Rubin, Angel Jennings and Andrew Blankstein