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Temecula shooting investigation continues

March 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An off-duty Costa Mesa police officer who fatally shot a man and wounded another during a fight outside a Temecula restaurant was recovering at home Moday from injuries suffered in the altercation. The shooting took place in the 42000 block of Main Street in Old Town Temecula Saturday night.

"We weren't out of control. I don't know what led up to it. There was no point," said Dara Lewenthal, the victim's girlfriend and witness.

Dara Lewenthal says that they were out just having a good time. She says that the off duty officer inappropriately touched someone in their party.

Eyewitness News was told that the officer apologized and said that he thought the woman was his sister.

One hour later there was a second altercation. This time it happened outside the Temecula restaurant and that is when the officer opened fire.

Two people were hit in the shooting. One person was wounded and is recovering and the other individual died.

"I mean nothing is going to bring him back. I just want this guy to pay for what he did. Who knows how many people he has hurt by doing this. One drunken night and he went out and decided to shoot everyone for no reason, just because he is an off-duty police officer and he thinks he can," said Lewenthal.

If the officer was drunk is still in question.

"I know for sure that there was a coke, a Tecate and a glass of wine that went to the girlfriend that she did not finish," said Craig Puma, a restaurant owner.

The amount of alcohol that the victim's party had to drink is also in question.

"I had only heard that they had been asked to leave several places in town. They had been through town quite a bit. That is what I heard, that they had been going from bar to bar," said Puma.

Puma also said that he heard five shots.

"We can't really speak for Costa Mesa's policy. Our policy is that if you are in fear for your life or the life of somebody else we are authorized to use lethal force," said Jerry Franchville, Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

The Costa Mesa Police Department did not comment Monday on the issue. They did say that the officer is at home recovering from his minor head injuries.

"Our officer was involved in an incident. He was off duty and was injured in the incident. I do not know the extent of the injuries. I have been told that it was a head injury. He is at home recovering from that and he is resting," said Lt. Paul Dondero, Costa Mesa Police Department.

The name of the officer has not been released, but he has been on the force at least 10 years, according to the Costa Mesa Police Department.

 

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