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Old September 1, 2001, 11:06 PM   #25
Mr. Pub
Senior Member
Join Date: January 18, 2000
Posts: 392
From the LA Daily News

Basically what this story says is that its ok to burn him out, not because he was a felon violating the law, but because he was a gun owner.


Officials let armed suspect's home burn to keep others safe

By Orith Goldberg
Staff Writer

STEVENSON RANCH -- As a two-story home in an affluent Stevenson Ranch neighborhood burned with an armed man barricaded inside Friday, police and firefighters stood by and just watched.
After an attempt to serve a warrant went horribly awry, with the suspect in the house shooting and killing a deputy sheriff, then firing a barrage of ammunition throughout the neighborhood, officers let the house burn to the ground with the suspect inside.

Flames burn through the roof of the suspect's house along Brooks Circle in Stevenson Ranch Friday (Shaun Dyer / Daily News)
Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy David Cervantes said the commander at the scene decides on appropriate tactics when there is an armed suspect barricaded inside a house that has caught on fire. The commander must take the safety of officers and firefighters, among other factors, into consideration before deciding how to respond.

"We don't want to put more personnel ... at risk," Cervantes said.

Lewis Yablonsky, professor emeritus of criminology and sociology at California State University, Northridge, said law enforcement officials were absolutely right to keep anyone else from harm's way.

"From my point of view, it's a very clear call, especially when they approached and one sheriff's deputy was killed by this madman who was obviously out to protect his guns," Yablonsky said.

"If I were the commander of the (personnel) outside this house, I'd let it burn."

Yablonsky said police operated on the side of safety for the well-being of innocent people. "That was a logical and understandable act."

Firefighters poured water on homes adjacent to the burning house from a safe distance because the suspect was believed to have a high-powered weapon that could penetrate four to five walls easily, Cervantes said.

Firefighters did everything they could, within reason, to save the homes, officials said.

"Typically we'd send firefighters in, but in this case, we couldn't do that because of the threat of the suspect inside," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Mike Brown. "Our best tactic was to fight the fire from the exterior."

The blaze erupted on the second floor of the home at 11:51 a.m. Friday, hours after authorities had gone to the 26000 block of Brooks Circle to execute a search warrant at the home of 35-year-old James Allen Beck.

Brown said the Fire Department couldn't get close enough to the Beck home to battle the blaze, so concentrated efforts on the adjacent homes with a water tower that had the capacity to spew 600 to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

Los Angeles County Fire. Capt. Brian Jordan said water was poured on the roofs of the adjacent homes in a heavy stream from ladders at least 100 feet away in an attempt to keep them from catching fire.

The effort was successful, but firefighters were still assessing the adjacent homes for possible water damage, Jordan said.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials agreed with the county department's tactics.

"Until the scene is secured, you don't go in there," said LAFD spokesman Bob Collis. "You're not going to put a bunch of firemen in jeopardy to save a house.

"It's all up to the police. They're on the scene and in charge, and you do what they say."

Simi Valley police Sgt. Bob Gardner said the last thing authorities want to see is another innocent person's life taken.

"The bottom line is, you're not going to do anything unsafe," Gardner said. "What is safe is going to dictate what they do."
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