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Toddler shot by Calif. police had cocaine in her system


August 05, 2005
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Toddler shot by Calif. police had cocaine in her system

By TIM MOLLOY
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES- A 19-month-old girl killed by police as her father held her hostage had trace amounts of cocaine in her system, coroner's officials said Thursday.

Suzie Pena was shot by police after her father opened fire on officers who cornered him in his Watts auto repair business July 10 following a chaotic, three-hour confrontation. Jose Pena, 34, was holding the toddler as he fired a 9 mm handgun, wounding one officer.

The officers returned fire, killing Pena and the girl. Police found traces of cocaine and a partly empty tequila bottle in the office where Pena had tried to hold them off.

The small amounts of cocaine in the girl's system suggested she ingested it through skin contact, breast feeding or inhaling cocaine that someone else smoked, said Craig Harvey, operations chief for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

"If the child had picked up the cocaine (and swallowed it) there would have been a much larger, possibly fatal amount," Harvey said.

A toxicology report on whether Pena had taken drugs or alcohol was not yet complete.

Suzie was killed by a shot in the face, though she also took a non-fatal gunshot to the leg, Harvey said. Both shots appeared to have been fired from a high-powered police rifle, though it was unclear whether one or two rifles were involved, he said.

Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton has said officers were devastated by the girl's death but that Pena put them in an impossible position when he opened fire with his daughter in his arms.




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