Man Thought Dead in Burned LA Home After Standoff

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 television.

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 house.

"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 warrant.

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 his neighbors.

"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.

Back to previous page