Eight Los Angeles police officers who opened fire on a mother and daughter delivering newspapers during the manhunt for a rogue ex-officer violated the department’s policy of using deadly force, officials said.
The findings were presented to the civilian Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday, commission president Steve Soboroff said in a statement. It will be up to Police Chief Charlie Beck to decide how, if at all, to discipline the officers, who have been assigned duty out of the field.
"I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force. This shooting did not meet that standard," Beck said.
The news comes almost a year after Margie Carranza and her mother Emma Hernandez came under fire Feb. 7, 2013, while they were delivering newspapers in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue in Torrance.
Local news from across Southern California
"(Beck is) in a tough position, but he decided to do the right thing and find that the shooting was outside of policy because let's face it, it was," said Glen Jonas, the attorney for the two women.
Officers were posted on protective duty in the neighborhood because a police captain who lives there was named in a manifesto written by disgruntled ex-officer Christopher Dorner, who killed four people during a rampage that kept southern California on heightened alert for days.
"The officers had been given information that the captain’s wife had seen Dorner in the neighborhood," Beck said.
As the newspaper women slowly drove down the street with their high-beam headlights and flashers on, officers opened fire on their blue Toyota Tacoma pickup truck apparently mistaking it for Dorner’s gray or dark blue Nissan Titan. It was about 5:15 a.m.
Soboroff said the officers noted that the women's license plate began with the same characters as Dorner's -- "8D." He said the women were driving slowly then accelerated, crossing the center line of the roadway.
"Ultimately, the officers believed by the erratic manner the vehicle was driving that it was occupied by Dorner," Soboroff said. "These observations led the officers to discharge their weapons at the vehicle to stop the threat."
Hernandez, then 71, was shot twice in the back and Carranza, then 47, was injured by broken glass.
The department's Use of Force Review Panel had found the shooting justifiable, but Beck overruled and the civilian oversight commission agreed with him.
“Different make, a different model. You have a different race, a different gender so there was no real match,” Jonas said.
Last April, the women settled their case with the city of Los Angeles for $4.2 million. Regardless, the shooting could have been found to be "in policy" if it was determined that the officers perceived an imminent lethal threat.
Just hours before at about 1:20 a.m., the hunt for Dorner ratcheted up after two Riverside officers were ambushed in their police car, and one of them was killed.
An attorney for the women said police fired more than 100 rounds into their pickup truck. A bullet pierced the hood of Hernandez’s sweatshirt, he said.
In an exclusive interview with NBC4 last July -- five months after the shooting -- the women recounted their horror but also expressed empathy for what police were going through when Dorner was at large. Carranza confided that she was still afraid to leave her home at night.
"I am scared that I will get shot by police," she told NBC4.
The same morning the women were shot at, another pickup truck driver – David Perdue – was fired upon by police during the frenzied manhunt. He was given $20,000 by the city of Torrance.
Last month, the Los Angeles District Attorney said that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers who shot at Perdue in their search for Dorner.
The disgruntled ex-officer vowed bloodshed against law enforcement agents and their families until his 2008 firing from the LAPD was investigated and his name cleared. He had been accused of lying that a supervisor kicked a suspect. An LAPD report found that his termination was justified.
Authorities said Dorner killed the daughter of a former LAPD captain and her fiancé on Feb. 3, 2013, before slaying a Riverside police officer on Feb. 7, 2013, and a San Bernardino County Sheriff's detective on Feb. 12, 2013.
The manhunt ended Feb. 12 with a shootout and standoff in the Big Bear area.
Dorner was holed up in a cabin surrounded by authorities when a police tear gas canister shot into the residence started a fire. Dorner died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to deputies.
"In this instance, we terminated an individual from LAPD during his probationary period. And four years later, he comes back to haunt us all," Beck said.