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Veteran SWAT officer killed in shootout

February 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Five people, including an LAPD SWAT officer, are dead after a night-long standoff at a Valley home that ended with police killing the gunman, authorities said Thursday. The standoff began about 9 p.m. Wednesday night in a house on the 19800 block of Welby Way in Winnetka. Police responded to the scene after receiving calls from the 20-year-old suspect who said he had killed three family members. Officials believe that the family members may have been the suspect's father and two older brothers.

"Late last night as it has been reported a male caller telephoned 911 and he reported that he had killed a number of individuals and to come and get them," said Dep. Chief Michael Moore, LAPD.

Over the next few hours additional calls were made to 911 from whom they believe was the gunman. But each time he would use a different number and have a different story. SWAT negotiators were able to get him briefly on the phone. They were led to believe that as many as six people were inside the house.

"Their intention in going to this location was to enter the location and rescue any of the victims that were inside that might still be alive," said Dep. Chief Moore.

A SWAT team surrounded the house minutes after the call. About three hours later, the officers entered the one-story home. The suspect then opened fire on the officers.

"When the officers first entered the house they were met with gunfire. They also found and discovered three males. Apparently two were deceased and a third one possibly still alive," said Dep. Chief Moore.

The third victim was taken outside and died on the front lawn.

Meanwhile, the suspect was still shooting at the SWAT officers. Two officers were shot in the gunfight and police retreated from the home with their wounded colleagues.

Both officers were taken to Northridge Medical Center, where one of them, Randal Simmons, 51, died of a bullet wound to the head, just after 1 a.m. He was a 27-year veteran of the force. The other officer, 51-year-old James Veenstra, had undergone surgery and is in stable condition.

LAPD then called in for backup. As many as 200 law enforcement officers responded. They then attempted to start negotiations with the gunman.

"That went on for a long period of time and was met with absolute silence," said Dep. Chief Moore.

Six hours later, police lobbed tear gas into the home. The suspect did not come out of the house, but a woman did. Authorities believe that she is the gunman's stepmother.

"From the rear of the house a woman suddenly appeared. She was rescued and taken from the scene. It was discovered that she had in fact been inside the residence. It is our understanding at this point that was their during the earlier carnage of the people being shot and killed," said Dep. Chief Moore.

Then for the next two hours officers used more tear gas and hit it repeatedly with a battering ram. They also used flash-bangs, a tactical effort that may have caught the house on fire.

"It appears that the flash-bang may have started the fire. However, it is not beyond the possibility that the suspect himself started the fire," said Dep. Chief Moore.

Flames shot out of the windows and smoke was coming out on several sides of the house. Firefighters sprayed the house with water.

Eleven hours after the suspect barricaded himself inside the home, he was shot and killed during another exchange of gunfire between officers, Dep. Chief Moore said.

The names of the three relatives killed and the suspect have not been released.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he had visited with the family of Simmons, who left a wife and two children. Veenstra's wife is a captain on the force.

"This is a very horrible tragedy and our hearts go out to all the members of the LAPD who also are grieving at this time," Villaraigosa said.

It was the first fatality in the history of the elite LAPD SWAT team, which was created in 1967 and went on full-time status in 1971.

Trust funds have been established through the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union for Officer Randal Simmons and Officer James Veenstra.

If you'd like to make a donation to the fund click here. When on the site (www.lapfcu.org) just click on the red square titled "LAPFCU Community Corner."

Contributions in their honor may also be made to: The Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation (www.lapmf.org) click here and The Los Angeles Police Foundation ( www.lapolicefoundation.org) click here. Eyewitness News reporter Wendy Burch and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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