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So. Calif. Police Kill Man Who Aimed Replica Gun

July 03, 2004
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So. Calif. Police Kill Man Who Aimed Replica Gun

By Stanley Allison and Kevin Pang, The Los Angeles Times

Ending a tense standoff witnessed by more than a dozen bystanders, Huntington Beach police shot and killed a man Saturday when he aimed a replica gun at them, authorities and witnesses said.

The unidentified man had called police to the scene, warning them that he had a gun and was either going to shoot himself or "kill some cops," said Lt. Janet Perez of the Huntington Beach Police Department, who called the man's death an apparent "suicide by cop."

When police officers arrived at 14th Street and Orange Avenue near downtown about 4:30 p.m., a five-minute standoff began. Authorities repeatedly demanded that the man, who stood in the street, take his hand out of his pocket, police and witnesses said.

"They gave him every opportunity to put the gun down," said David Steinway, who lives nearby.

As the man pulled out what appeared to be a large-caliber, semiautomatic handgun and raised it, several officers opened fire, police and witnesses said.

"He took a lot of lead," said Matt Plummer, 31, of Huntington Beach, who witnessed the shooting.

The man was described as in his 40s with blond buzzcut hair and a scruffy beard.

Once the man was down, a police dog attacked him.

Witnesses said the dog had approached the man twice before the shooting, but backed off.

"After the dog came back to the handler, all within a split second, all you heard were gunshots," said Troy Massoth, who watched the drama from his bedroom window.

Witnesses said the authorities should be commended for their handling of the situation.

"I really think the police did an excellent job," Plummer said. "This is what we have [them] for."

The scene was too horrifying for Dallas Marcks, Massoth's stepson. He had been watching, but turned away after the first shots.

"I didn't want to see a dead body," he said. "I'm 14 years old. I'm not ready for that."

The downtown shooting came on the eve of the city's centennial Fourth of July parade celebration, including a $100,000 pyrotechnic display on the waterfront for the first time since the 1970s.

Some witnesses said they mistook the gunfire for firecrackers.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is investigating the shooting, as it does with any officer-involved shooting.

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