LOS ANGELES – A gunman killed three apparent relatives and a veteran SWAT officer and wounded another officer before police shot him to death early Thursday in a home that erupted in flames during a long standoff. A woman escaped near the end of the siege.
The Los Angeles Police Department was deeply shaken by the nightlong siege in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. Officer Randal Simmons, described as “the rock” of the elite SWAT team, became the first member in its four-decade history to die in the line of duty, taking a gunshot to the neck as the unit stormed the suspect’s house in an unsuccessful attempt to end the conflict.
Simmons played cornerback for the Washington State University football team in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Simmons, who studied criminology at WSU, left a wife and two children.
A fellow SWAT officer, James Veenstra, was shot and seriously wounded.
“Today’s a sad and tragic day here in the city of Los Angeles,” said an emotional Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Police Chief William Bratton said investigators going through the house afterward believed there may be an additional victim inside, so “we are even at this stage of the game not certain how many victims we have.”
Two other SWAT officers received minor fragment wounds in a barrage of gunfire, Bratton said.
There was no immediate explanation of what triggered the bloodbath in the modest San Fernando Valley home.
The unidentified gunman was killed about 11 hours after barricading himself in the house and telling police in a 911 call he had killed three relatives, police said. Those victims’ identities were not immediately known.
The shooting occurred at the home of a man, his wife and their three sons, said Armando Rivera, who identified himself as a cousin.