Probes of two fatal deputy-involved shootings continue in 2017

An officer walks through the scene at Shangri La Drive and Nathan Hill Drive in Canyon Country following an officer-involved shooting on Jan. 13, 2016. (KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal)

Two men were fatally shot last year by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station; however, it’s likely to be later this year before the public learns whether or not the shootings were justified.

Investigations launched into the shooting deaths of two Santa Clarita Valley men who died as a result of being shot by a deputy are ongoing, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said.

Miguel Angel Hernandez, 39, was shot and killed by a deputy near Shangri-La and Nathan Hill drives in Canyon Country on Jan. 14 after he was pulled over by a deputy.

According to Sheriff’s Station officials at the time, Hernandez stepped out of the stopped vehicle and started yelling profanities at the deputy while appearing to challenge him to a fight.

William “Bicycle Bill” Armond Bowers, 51, was shot and killed Aug. 2 by a deputy near the sidewalk in front of the Rodeway Inn, in Castaic.

A check with the DA’s office at year’s end on the status of the probe into the Bowers shooting, DA spokesman Greg Risling said; “The case hasn’t been presented to our office by the investigating agency.”

Asked about the status of the Hernandez case, Risling said: “The case is under review.”

While the families of those shot by deputies have their own version of events to tell, the process of review is a time-consuming multi-faceted protocol whenever someone is shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

Lengthy Process

“Whenever a “deputy Involved Shooting” occurs involving Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies and it results in the fatality of a suspect, multiple independent investigations immediately begin at the scene,” LASD spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told The Signal.

These include separate investigations by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner – Coroner, the LASD’s Homicide Bureau and Internal Affairs Bureau.

It also sends a representative to the incident scene to provide independent oversight throughout the investigative process to ensure a strong, independent and effective oversight is conducted, Nishida said.

A Critical Incident Review panel is also convenes to perform a preliminary risk management analysis of the shooting.

Every aspect of a Deputy-Involved shooting is ultimately evaluated by the Sheriff’s Executive Force Review Committee, which decides whether or not there are any policy, tactical, supervisory, or training violations or concerns.

The Office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney also participates in the investigatory process and conducts a legal analysis of the shooting.

In the end, it’s a special unit of the DA’s office called the Justice System Integrity Division that renders a decision as to whether or not the shooting was justified.

While officials scrutinize details of the shootings, however, members of the both the Hernandez family and the Bowers family have their own version of events.

Hernandez incident

In April, Miguel and Anna Hernandez filed a civil suit against the Sheriff’s Department over the death of their 39-year-old, son Miguel A. Hernandez.

They claim in the suit that there was “no reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the traffic stop.

On Jan. 14, 2016, between 7:30 p.m and 8 p.m., Hernandez was driving his car on Shangri-La Drive when a deputy “effected a traffic stop as Miguel was turning left onto Nathan Hill Drive,” the couple claims in their suit.

The couple’s lawyer, John Burton, said: “He was pulled over, got out of his car and the deputy shot him with one shot.”

“They say he was armed but there is no evidence of that,” Burton said.

The account in the lawsuit, however, differs markedly from the version reported by Sheriff’s Department investigators.

According to Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the LASD’S Homicide Bureau, reported Miguel Hernandez was believed to be a member of the Brown Familia gang and that the car he was driving was believed used in an earlier drive-by shooting.

Hernandez said the deputy pulled the suspect’s car over and the driver immediately stepped out and started yelling profanities at the deputy while appearing to challenge him to a fight.

The deputy repeatedly ordered the man to put his hands in the air but he ignored all commands, Hernandez said, then turned his body and appeared to reach for a weapon behind his back before the deputy opened fire.

Detectives also recovered a knife at the scene, described as a “black folding knife with a rubber combat grip and a three-inch blade,” Hernandez said.

Bowers incident

Likewise, members of the Bowers family have been in touch with a lawyer about the shooting, a friend of family told The Signal.

Photo Tom Cruze/For the Signal
A candle light vigil was held for Bill Bowers who was killed in Castasic on August 2. Holding candles for their friend are , from left: Angela Testi, Graciela Dutto, Vincent Franco and Jeannette Casian. 0810

“I don’t think this should be something the sheriff department just sweeps under the rug,” said Mark Gillam.  “That cop was wrong in every way.

“Bill might have been a lot of things but violent is not one of them,” he said. “He didn’t carry weapons or anything like that. He, for sure, had some issues but really did not deserve to be harassed and eventually killed by the sheriff department.

“I really hope there will be some sort of justice in this case but I am pretty sure there won’t be, that is just the way it works I guess,” he said.

With regards to the Bowers shooting, however, Bowers failed to comply with orders given by deputies, according to Lt. Joe Mendoza of the LASD’s Homicide Bureau.

“Two deputies were patrolling an area in front of the Rodeway Inn when they spotted an individual previously known to them as a narcotics offender,” Mendoza said told The Signal shortly after the shooting.

Deputies attempted to make contact with the man but he rode away on a bicycle, then dropped the bike and “runs or walks briskly” away toward a big rig parked in front of the Rodeway Inn, the lieutenant said.

The deputies took up positions at the front and rear of the big rig, Mendoza said, and when the deputy at the rear of the truck drove toward the front “That deputy made contact with the suspect,” Mendoza said.

“One shot was fired, striking the man in the upper torso.”

Prior JSID decisions

The shooting deaths of Hernandez and Bowers came on the heels of two other deputy-involved shootings.

In all, four SCV residents have been fatally shot by local sheriff’s deputies in the last three years.

Each of those lethal deputy-involved shootings was deemed justified by the JSID – the Justice System Integrity Division set up to ensure transparent, accountable and constitutional policing for the county of Los Angeles.

Steven Burke Pettersen, 47, of Canyon Country, was shot multiple times in the upper torso on Jan. 30, 2014, by deputies after he reportedly moved toward them with a knife in his hand.

Bruce D. Graham, 53, was shot and killed at his Castaic home Oct. 6, 2013, after emerging from the garage holding a rifle. He refused to follow commands to drop the rifle and then pointed it at deputies, who in fear for their safety fired at the suspect, a news release issued at the time said.


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