Teen In Family Dispute Shot By Officer, Police Say

INLAND: Law enforcement agents' gunfire has killed four and injured two others over seven days.

10:00 PM PST on Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Press-Enterprise

Two men -- a 17-year-old Moreno Valley resident and a motorist in Coachella -- were shot and killed by law enforcement, becoming the two latest Inland-area residents to be shot by officers, bringing the week's total to six.

Israel Castaņeda began arguing with his stepdad about his younger brother's bike Friday afternoon, said his cousin Janette Farias, 16, who was in the Moreno Valley home at the time. Castaņeda began hitting walls and breaking windows, surprising Janette and her sister Patricia, 13.

"He went ballistic," Janette said. "He didn't have to go ballistic like that."

Moreno Valley police officers arrived at the home on Kennebec Court about 4:55 p.m. in response to a family disturbance, said Deputy Craig Roberts with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which contracts with the city.

When the officer entered the home, Castaņeda ran into the attached garage. He jumped onto a sofa bed and armed himself with a 15-inch metal object, Roberts said.

Accounts differ on what happened next.

According to law enforcement, the officer told Castaņeda to drop the object and comply with orders. Castaņeda's cousins who were in the house but not in the garage said they did not hear the officer say anything before or after the officer entered the garage.

"We just heard the gun shots," said Patricia. " ... Why didn't they tell him to come out with his hands up?"

The sisters believe the object Castaņeda held was part of a torso brace he wore since a recent traffic collision.

Castaņeda lunged at the officer with the metal object and the officer, "fearing for his safety, fired several rounds," Roberts said.

The officer attempted to render first aid and requested medical aid. Castaņeda was pronounced dead at 5:14 p.m., according to the Riverside County coroner's office.

Per Sheriff's Department policy, the officer is on paid administrative leave and the officer's name has not yet been released. The Sheriff's Central Homicide Unit is investigating.

About two hours later in Coachella, a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a vehicle, got into a physical altercation with the driver and shot the man, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department that is investigating the incident. The officer received minor injuries.

The CHP officer and others rendered first aid and an ambulance took the man from La Hernandez Street and La Ponderosa Drive in Coachella to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio. He was pronounced dead at 8:15 p.m., according to the Riverside County coroner's office, which did not release his identity.

The week before, sheriff's deputies shot Sebastian Wolfe, 52, near Palm Springs after he fired rounds at nearby homes and threatened the deputies with a gun, according to the Sheriff's Department. Then on March 18, Fontana police shot Dominic Rabone, 39, who was armed with a gun in the bushes outside his ex-girlfriend's home, and another man, David Robert Rodriguez, 22, after a high-speed freeway pursuit.

The following day, sheriff's deputies shot a 61-year-old man near Desert Center after a long standoff. The Riverside County coroner's office did not release his name.

All were fatal but the two Fontana incidents.

Shootings by officers can make them more apprehensive while slayings of officers can lead to heightened vigilance, said Thomas Aveni, with the Police Policy Studies Council.

"They suffer an enormous emotional distress and they're going to be second-guessed," Aveni said. "It's not something any officer would want to go through."

In the aftermath, investigators must review all circumstances that contributed to the death. Aveni said many times that includes low lighting where officers may not have been able to tell the difference between a cell phone and a gun.

Investigators also have to understand how much the officer knew about the victim -- if they were a violent gang member or drug user or suffered from a mental illness.