A 19-month-old girl was fatally shot when her intoxicated father used her as a shield during a fiery gun battle with police after a standoff that lasted three hours, authorities said.
Police Chief William Bratton said Monday that his officers were well within department policy when they shot car wash owner Jose Raul Pena on Sunday. Pena, 34, also was killed; an officer was shot in the shoulder but was expected to recover.
"You aren't going to stand there with somebody shooting at you," Bratton said. "The person responsible for any loss of life . . . was the individual who held his child out as a shield and continued to shoot."
Lorena Lopez, whose daughter, Susie, was killed, said she had pleaded with officers to hold their fire.
"He had problems with depression; his business was not doing well," Lopez told KNBC-TV. "I told them that he needed help, he needs a psychologist, but please don't shoot. They didn't understand, and the police fired, like, 300 shots."
Autopsies will determine whether the bullet that killed the toddler was fired by police or her father. Police spokesman Kevin Maiberger said 11 officers fired during the standoff, but it was not immediately known how many shots they took.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the officers were only trying to protect themselves and the public.
"My heart is out to a grieving mother who's lost her child. My heart is also out to those officers who put their lives on the line," he said. "Not a one of them went into that situation with the intent to hurt anyone. They were doing their jobs."
The standoff started when officers were called to an intersection in south Los Angeles west of Watts where Pena was behaving erratically and aggressively.
He fired at the officers and ran inside a fenced area that included his apartment and his car wash and detailing business. He had a 9mm handgun and a shotgun and was intoxicated on drugs and alcohol, police said.
Police called in a SWAT team and tried to talk to the man. At one point, as officers helped a neighbor escape, Pena fired at them and they fired back, police said.