Pubdate: Fri, 27 Aug 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
section: page16A
Author: Jill Serjeant, Reuters News Service


LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles-area police, already criticized for being too
quick to pull the trigger, came under criticism again Thursday for storming
the home of an unarmed 65-year-old Latino grandfather and shooting him to

They were looking for a drug dealer who had lived next door several years

In the fourth such incident in Los Angeles or its environs in as many
months, police are accused of using excessive force when they burst into
the home of Mario Paz with shotguns and flash-bang grenades looking for a
drug dealer.

They found no drugs and the Paz family said the man named on the police
arrest warrant lived next door in the early 1980s and occasionally used the
Paz's mailing address.

Paz, who had been sleeping with his wife, had no criminal record. He was
shot twice in the back by an officer, who said he feared Paz was about to
reach for a weapon.

Lawyers for the family said they will file a lawsuit today claiming
wrongful death and excessive force by police officers in the Los Angeles
suburb of El Monte over the Aug. 9 raid.

"It is a pretty outrageous case. They gained entry by literally blasting
down the outside doors with shotguns while people were sleeping," family
lawyer Brian Dunn said.

"It seems undisputed at this time that Mr. Paz was unarmed when he was
shot," Dunn said.

Two investigations are under way into the raid by about 20 members of an
elite SWAT police team. El Monte police are investigating, as is the Los
Angeles County Sheriff's department.

Just 10 days ago, the FBI started an investigation into a controversial Los
Angeles police unit -- the Special Investigation Section -- over the deaths
of two unarmed robbery suspects.

In June, police called to a domestic dispute shot dead a man who threatened
them with a sharp object. It later turned out to be a ballpoint pen. In
May, police opened fire and killed a mentally ill homeless woman who lunged
at officers with a screwdriver.

"Every case must be evaluated on its merits but the phenomenon of
unjustifiable police homicides is something that is recurring at an
alarming level," Dunn said.

In the Paz shooting, El Monte police said they were acting on a search
warrant for a suspected drug dealer and the raid was standard SWAT procedure.

"We throw flash-bang grenades. We bust open the doors. You've seen it on
TV," said El Monte Assistant Police Chief Bill Ankeny.

"We do bang on the door and make an announcement -- `It's the police!' --
but it kind of runs together. If you're sitting on the couch it would be
difficult to get to the door before they knock it down," Ankeny said.

[Note: The following text did not appear in the printed story, probably cut
due to space limitations. --- Art]

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department investigator Marilyn Baker said after
storming the house, two officers went into a bedroom where they found Paz
and his wife and ordered them in English and Spanish to show their hands.

"Mr. Paz made a reaching motion. One of the officers, believing he was
arming himself and fearing for his life and that of his partner, fired two
rounds striking Mr. Paz in the upper torso," Baker said.

Ankeny expressed condolences to the Paz family and acknowledged that he was
not the person police were seeking. But he denied reports that police had
raided the wrong house.

"It wasn't an accident that we hit that particular house. It wasn't the
wrong house. It is the exact house that we intended to go to," he said. 
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