|By Dan Whitcomb|
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man who allegedly
killed a police officer while barricaded in his home
was presumed dead in the two-story house on
Friday as it burned to the ground in a fire
apparently sparked by tear gas grenades. The
confrontation and blaze were shown live on local
James Beck, 35, who exchanged gunfire with
officers and police helicopters for several hours
during the standoff at his home near the Los
Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, never emerged
as flames reduced the house to a blackened shell
and fire crews poured water on the rubble.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman said
he could not yet confirm that Beck died in the
"As soon as the fire department says it's safe to
do so there will be a special entry team that will
do a search of the residence to look for the
suspect," the spokesman said. "We don't know
if he got out of the house or if he's still there. We
don't know the status of the suspect at this time."
Officers surrounded Beck's home after the suspect, who was initially wanted
on federal weapons charges, allegedly opened fire on Los Angeles County
Sheriff's deputies and federal agents trying to serve him with a search
During that confrontation Beck -- a former police officer with a prior burglary
conviction who was also suspected of impersonating a U.S. Marshal --
allegedly shot and killed the deputy, Hagop "Jake" Kuredjian.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, visibly upset during a press conference,
said Kuredjian had gone to the house to assist agents from the U.S. Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were trying to serve a search warrant.
Baca said the 40-year-old deputy was rushed to a local hospital but died a
short time later.
"In the course of his effort to apprehend this suspect, Deputy Kuredjian was
shot with what we believe was one shot and fatally wounded," Baca said. "I
would like to express my deep sorrow to his family who were notified and are
on their way."
Local television stations reported that the ATF had been investigating Beck
for allegedly stockpiling weapons in the home and had told neighbors that he
was a U.S. Marshal.
Shortly before noon PDT (3 p.m. EDT) a fire broke out in the upstairs of the
house, apparently after officers fired tear gas into
the house in an effort to make Beck surrender,
but Beck stayed inside as the flames spread
throughout the house.
Television stations, which carried much of the
standoff live, showed fire crews pouring water on
the home as students at a nearby school were
evacuated with a police escort.
Terry Cerino, who lived across the street, told
KABC-TV that Beck was friendly and socialized with
"We understood that he worked for the U.S. Marshals but nobody ever really
knew for sure, and ... nobody ever really got a straight story from him it
seems," Cerino said.
Cerino, who was at home when the confrontation began shortly before 9 a.m.
PDT (Noon EDT), said Beck and officers exchanged as many as 500 rounds in
an initial gun battle before deputies took her to safety.
"They said he had high-powered rifles and ammunition that would penetrate
the walls of our home and they didn't want anyone hurt," she said.