UPDATED: Los Angeles police officers were administering "street justice" when they mistakenly opened fire on two newspaper carriers on a Torrance street as they protected a captain's house from suspected gunman Christopher Dorner, an attorney said Friday. | PHOTOS
Glen T. Jonas, who represents Emma Hernandez, 71, and her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, said the officers faced a unique situation Thursday morning, but made no effort to identify who they were shooting. Like Dorner, the women were in a pickup truck, but it was a different make and a different shade of blue, he said.
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"I don't want to beat the war drum here, but it's clear that they didn't make any attempt to match the description and they used deadly force without giving anyone in that car an opportunity to surrender," Jonas said. "You have two basic violations of protocol and the result is that because of that, they are endangering citizens."
The shooting riddled the women's truck with bullets, wounding Hernandez twice in the back. She was recovering in a hospital's intensive care unit Friday, but was expected to survive, possibly with permanent physical effects, Jonas said.
"The bullet ricocheted and caused a lot of damage," Jonas said.
Her daughter was hit in the hand, either with a bullet or broken glass, he said.
"Margie physically is ok," Jonas said. "But she is emotionally and mentally wrecked as you can imagine the shock."
The Los Angeles Times carriers rolled onto the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue at 5:10 a.m. and quickly found themselves in the middle of the manhunt for Dorner, a former Los Angeles police Harbor Division officer seeking revenge against the families of police officials who fired him three years ago.
He is suspected of killing a California State University, Fullerton basketball coach and her fiance in Irvine on Sunday, and shooting three police officers in Riverside County on Thursday, killing one.
The slain coach was the daughter of a Los Angeles police officer targeted in a lengthy manifesto Dorner posted online to explain his actions.
Los Angeles police immediately began protecting the homes of targeted officers throughout Southern California, including the Torrance home of a high-ranking officer as Dorner remained at-large.
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said the officers stationed in Torrance believed the pickup truck matched Dorner's light blue Nissan Titan. The vehicle had its lights turned off.
Police opened fire. A neighbor said he heard as many as 20 shots.
Beck called it a case of mistaken identity.
Jonas called it something else.
"It's obvious that police wanted to execute this guy," Jonas said. "They forgot the reason there are rules of engagement. Thank God nobody is dead. It's street justice. That's always unacceptable."
Jonas said that although he understands it was before dawn, the women were driving a "really bright, super shiny royal blue" Toyota Tacoma, nothing like Dorner's truck.
The attorney said he could not confirm their lights were off, but said it was possible.
"When you are delivering papers in the dark and you turn a corner, sometimes carriers will shut off the lights because you are shining your lights into people's houses, so you don't want to wake them up," he said.
Jonas described the women as members of a hardworking South Bay family who "work a number of jobs to make ends meet."
Jonas said he did not know if a lawsuit was forthcoming.
"I expect the city to own up to what happened," he said. "You couldn't have a more blatant example of excessive force in violation of someone's civil rights."
Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said he had no comment on Jonas' accusations, but said the shooting is under investigation. Smith declined to speak directly about the officers involved in the Torrance shooting, but said it is routine to remove officers from the field and put them on administrative duties without public contact.
The officers will see a psychologist and after 72 hours of analysis, Beck will decide whether to return them to the field, keep them on duties in a station, or place them on leave at home.
Following that shooting, Torrance officers responding to the gunfire, collided with and shot at a pickup truck leaving the area. The driver was not related to the Dorner case. His family declined to comment Thursday.