Living in Southern California, any one of us are only moments away from shedding our civility and going all murderballs on that JERK WHO JUST CUT US OFF ON THE FREEWAY.
Ahem. Excuse us for a moment while we regain our composure.
But if you drive a motor vehicle out here, you know how it is. You’re cruising along, staying in your lane, minding your own business and boom—you’re forced to swerve into the shoulder because some jackass didn’t bother to check his blind spot before trying to force his way into your lane.
And then comes the fun stuff—you’ve got to avenge yourself as soon as possible. There’s the tailgating, the bird-flippin‘ . . . or the assault with a deadly weapon.
That’s what San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials say happened Thursday night in Chino Hills, when two cars were headed south on the 71 freeway. A man rode alone in one car and four men rode in the other. They were all pissed at each other when they exited the freeway just before 8 p.m. and met up in the parking lot of The Shoppes on Grand Avenue.
The lone driver got out of his car and the four buddies got out of theirs before moving toward the other man.
They never made it. The man pulled a gun and started shooting. He hit one of his alleged would-be attackers in the chest and hit another in the arm and leg. The other two men ran away and weren’t hit, but deputies caught them a short time later.
Paramedics took both men to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. The man with the more superficial wounds was treated and released. The guy with the hole in his chest is still receiving treatment but is expected to survive.
The case is odd, as two men were wounded in the incident but to date, officials haven’t said if they’ve arrested anyone.
The gunman was definitely not arrested—sheriff’s officials say he was the victim in the dust-up. They also say there was a good reason he was armed with a gun.
He was an off-duty cop.
Because he’s considered a victim, officials haven’t released the cop’s name, but they’ve said he works for the Huntington Park Police Department. (That department has also declined to name the officer, which isn’t surprising, as he’s not been charged with a crime.)
Huntington Park PD placed the officer on administrative leave over the weekend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in any trouble (in all likelihood, he’s probably not). He’ll likely remain on leave until after San Bernardino Sheriff’s detectives finish their investigation into the incident.
Whenever an off-duty police officer is involved in a shooting (which isn’t all that common, but it does happen), a common knee-jerk reaction is the accusation that those cops can shoot and kill indiscriminately. This time’s no different.
As soon as the story broke, the comments sections of most local news websites filled up with accusations that the Huntington Park cop wasn’t arrested because of his status as police. San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials insist that this is not the case.
Still, law enforcement officers have more experience than most people at explaining the use of lethal force. While the vast majority of officers and deputies never fire their weapons outside of a practice range, they’re all fully trained on what to do if they ever have to actually shoot someone.
And a look at the news release sheriff’s officials released regarding the shooting suggests that the off-duty cop knew just what to say.
When deputies mopped up the crime scene after the shooting, they found an 8-inch knife and a can of pepper spray there, officials said. The off-duty cop told investigators that he fired on the men because he saw objects in their hands that he believed them to be weapons.
We asked officials why the four men—who officials called suspects—haven’t yet been identified.
“At the time of the (news) release all involved parties had not been positively identified,” answered sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.
So that means detectives are still waiting for witnesses to put all four men at the scene. It’s likely that the two wounded men were identified right away, and detectives are buttoning up IDs on the two men who weren’t injured. Don’t be surprised if officials announce identities and arrests within the next few days.
So once again, it almost goes without saying, the next time some awful driver cuts you off on the freeway, it might behoove you to resist the urge to follow him to the nearest shopping center and re-arrange his facial features. That driver could very well be an armed off-duty cop who could put a hole in you before you get near him.
Food for thought.
[Editor's Note: A version of this story filed earlier today incorrectly identified the police department the off-duty officer worked for. The officer works for the Huntington Park Police Department.]
Check back here every Monday for the latest post from “The Watch Dog” crime journalist Jesse B. Gill. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @jessebgillcrime.