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Former U.S. Olympian slain in Oxnard

August 28, 2009 7:09:54 PM PDT
A local high school athletic director and former U.S. Olympian was shot and killed outside of his home. Now a manhunt is underway for the gunman.Residents of the Grass Lane neighborhood say it is a very safe and quiet place to live. That's why many are in shock after what happened late Thursday night.

The victim was Dave Laut, a former U.S. Olympian. On Friday, Oxnard detectives continued to search for Laut's killer.

Investigators worked through Thursday night and much of Friday gathering evidence in the murder of 52-year-old Laut. According to Oxnard police, the former Olympian went to check on what was making the family dog bark in the backyard around midnight. Laut's wife called 911 after she heard gunshots.

Responding officers found Laut had been shot multiple times in the backyard, according to David Keith of the Oxnard Police Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Neighbors are in shock over what happened. Laut was described as a great neighbor. Chet Thomas, a retired policeman, says that he and Laut moved into the neighborhood 18 years ago.

"He was just a good, down-to-earth guy. I retired from law enforcement, and this devastates me and my wife, also that it happened in our neighborhood to a guy that we knew like that," says Thomas.

Laut was married, and the couple has an elementary-school-aged son.

"Dave Laut was a very, very nice man. He always took care of his family. He took care of his church, he took care of his school and he took care of his students," describes Courtney Abbott, a family friend.

Laut was a world-ranked shot putter. He was on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, when the games were in Los Angeles, and won a bronze medal. In 2008, he became the athletic director for Hueneme High School, a school he was very familiar with because his father was a teacher there.

"Our focus and my focus as the principle here is to make sure that we definitely remember Dave for all the outstanding things he's done for Hueneme High School," says Dr. Adrian Palazuelos, the school's principal, "and that we get ourselves poised and ready to take on an awesome year and what else to do it, with his spirit in mind all the time."

The principal tells Eyewitness News that grief counselors will be on hand for both the staff and the students to deal with the loss next week when everybody is back in school.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Oxnard police at (805) 982-7070.

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