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Mistaken identity or ambush?  

In the predawn hours of February 7th, a normally quiet neighborhood in Torrance, California, was jolted awake by a barrage of gunfire.  71-year-old Emma Hernandez, and her daughter, 47-year-old Margie Carranza, were driving their daily LA Times delivery route when their truck suddenly came under fire by the LAPD.

The LAPD Security Division was providing protection to the home of a high-level official named in Christopher Dorner's manifesto when they spotted the delivery truck.  Assuming this was Dorner coming to carry out his threat, officers fired repeatedly, wounding both women.

Neighbors on and around Redbeam Avenue reported hearing "at least a hundred" shots.  One described it as the loudest thing she'd ever heard, saying it sounded like "a house was exploding."

It's easy to see what made police suspicious -- a pick-up truck matching the description of Dorner's, creeping along the wrong side of the street, with the driver's window down and headlights off.  They immediately thought this was Dorner; however, unprovoked and before determining whether or not it was him, they unleashed rounds of ammunition on the truck, as it continued away from them up the block.  A few houses up, the truck came to a stop at the corner.

In a Thursday press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said, "Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity by the officers."  Gee, ya think?

There's a logical explanation for the seemingly suspicious behavior -- Ms. Hernandez was driving on the left side of the street with the window down, so she could toss the newspapers onto driveways.  She cut the headlights, so she wouldn't disturb sleeping neighbors.  It's a common sight all across America at this time of the morning.

The LAPD not only misinterpreted her behavior, but they also got the type of truck wrong.  This one was a bright blue Toyota Tacoma, and Dorner's is a grey Nissan Titan.

The elder woman, Emma Hernandez, remains in intensive care today, with gunshot wounds to her back.  Her daughter, Margie Carranza, was treated at the scene for a hand wound.

About 15 minutes later and just two blocks away, Torrance Police rammed and shot a grey pick-up truck as it made its way north on Flagler Lane.  They had been on their way to the Redbeam scene, saw this truck and fired, assuming it was Dorner.  It happened to be a man on his way to work.  He was uninjured.

Grey pick-up and Torrance PD on Flagler Lane --

Law enforcement investigators at the scene of a bullet-riddled black truck on Flagler Lane in Redondo Beach Thursday morning. It appeared that the police car at right and the truck collided and the truck also had several bullet holes in the wiindshield.Ph
When I first heard about this, I was appalled that the police would deal with this so dangerously.  These women were simply doing their jobs, trying to make a living and minding their own business. Getting robbed or being in the way of random gang violence would have been tragic enough, but here they were being shot by those they trusted to protect them.

As I watched the continuous TV coverage of the manhunt, I expected to see more about this, but I mostly just heard mentions of "a related incident."  Today, the blogosphere is taking notice, but the mainstream media still report it as an aside.

Will the LAPD accept full responsibility for this?  Who will pay their hospital and ambulance bills? What about Mrs. Hernandez's lost wages?  

I'm happy to see that these women now have a lawyer fighting for them -- Glen T. Jones, who is accusing the LAPD of "street justice."  

Quoted in the local paper, The Daily Breeze, Jonas says:

"I don't want to beat the war drum here, but 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."


"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.


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."

Edited to add this, which sounds like it could be from 'The Onion,' but it's not.  LAPD Police Chief apologizes to the women and offers them a new truck.  Do they really think that will make everything alright?

Originally posted to lorzie on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

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