The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office is under scrutiny in four separate investigations over the tactics used in killing a man suspected of murdering a sheriff’s deputy, the Los Angeles Times reports. The episode occurred Aug. 8 near Palmdale, Ca., when 50 heavily armed officers converged on Donald Kueck’s hideout. Kueck was the suspect in the murder of sheriff’s deputy Stephen Sorensen, 46, who had been shot 14 times.
The Times says that Sheriff Lee Baca arrived at the standoff and told his deputies it was a “dead or alive” situation. Near the end of a 8-1/2 hour standoff, Kueck, a 52-year-old unemployed man with a criminal record and a methamphetamine habit, began shooting at deputies. They tried to flush him out with a battering ram and, when that failed, shot tear gas canisters that are believed to have sparked a fire. Kueck’s body was found inside the burned compound. Autopsy results have not been released.
The investigations are being conducted by the sheriff’s homicide and internal affairs bureaus, as well as the department’s Office of Independent Review and the Los Angeles County district attorney. The Times says they focus on three areas: Whether officers at the scene gave their negotiator enough time to bring the standoff to a peaceful end; whether the decision to use “hot tear gas” needlessly risked the fire that burned Kueck; whether Baca’s “dead or alive” ultimatum pushed deputies toward the deadly conclusion.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect tactical response to a person who murdered a cop, a person who is firing at cops with the intent of murdering [more] cops,” Baca said.