The LAPD shooting of 13-year-old driver Devin Brown at the end of a high-speed chase in February is back in the news. Chief Bratton said yesterday that by re-creating the events that led to Brown's death, the department learned that officer Steve Garcia was standing to the side of Devin's moving Toyota Camry—not in its path—when he fired ten rounds into the car. But he might have been behind the car and in danger when Brown began driving away. The Times reports:
The finding is potentially crucial, because Garcia has told investigators that he felt in danger as Devin backed the car toward him, leaving him no choice but to shoot, law enforcement sources say. LAPD rules allow an officer to fire at a moving vehicle if he believes his life or the lives of bystanders are in jeopardy.
Bratton, who plans to submit the department's report on the shooting to the district attorney's office next week, said he didn't believe that the results of the re-creation in themselves showed that Garcia acted criminally. It will be up to prosecutors to decide whether to file charges.
The reenactment showed that although Garcia was not behind Devin's vehicle when he fired, he had been within the car's path a few seconds earlier. Several LAPD sources said detectives were examining the possibility that Garcia drew his gun while behind the car but fired seconds later after moving to the side.
The Daily News story (in the Long Beach Press Telegram, where the server is working quicker) also says that Bratton will invite outside experts to join in the internal review of the SWAT shooting of Jose Raul Pena and 19-month-old Suzie Pena. Today, Police Protective League president Bob Baker issued a statement about the Devin Brown reenactment that says in part, "The death of a 13-year-old is a tragedy in any circumstances. In this case, hindsight provides the kind of 20/20 clarity that was not available at 4 o'clock that morning. At that time, unfortunately, the police officer who shot only knew that a driver in a stolen car was backing up towards him and attempting to run him over. He pulled his gun, and fired as he scrambled to get out of the way of the car."