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Sheriff’s Officials Defend Shooting Of Patient Inside Hospital By Deputy

A screenshot of Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a press conference on COVID-19 Monday, March 16, 2020. (L.A. County Sheriff's Department)
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A day after hospital workers held a rally to protest a Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy's shooting of a man experiencing a psychiatric crisis inside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, sheriff's officials defended the deputy. The incident took place at the Torrance hospital on Oct. 6.

Sheriff's officials today said that two deputies were providing security to a colleague who had been injured on the job when they heard loud banging down the hallway from their fourth-floor room around 11:15 p.m.

One deputy investigated and found a man trying to smash a window with a six-and-a-half pound steel medical device, said Lt. Derrick Alfred. The deputy cleared the room of two other patients and three staff members and, when she heard over a loudspeaker that help was on the way, she returned to join the other deputies and closed the door, according to Alfred.

Not long after, the man — described only as a 34-year-old Latino — was smashing the window on the door to the deputies’ room. When the door flung open, the deputy confronted the patient.

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“She repeatedly told the male patient to put the object down,” Alfred said. “The male patient, who was still holding the metal device over this head, lunged forward — or toward the deputy.” The deputy fired nine times — seven of the bullets struck the man, leaving him critically injured, he said.

Dozens of doctors and nurses held a rally Tuesday to express outrage at the shooting, saying the deputy should have waited for specially trained staff.

There wasn’t time, said Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “Their behavioral response team, great idea when they’re there.” Hospital administrators have not said how close the team was when the shooting occurred.

Villanueva was unclear why the deputy didn’t use her Taser.

The Board of Supervisors asked the inspector general to investigate the incident and called for a review of security procedures at public hospitals.

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