STANDOFF investigation raises questions about who fired bullet that killed deputy

Monday, September 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) _ The investigation into a deadly California standoff has raised questions about whether the suspect fired the bullet that killed a deputy or whether the officer was mistakenly hit by a fellow lawman.

The standoff began Friday morning when officers tried to serve a search warrant at the home of James Allen Beck, a convicted felon who allegedly impersonated a U.S. marshal and was building a weapons cache. It ended with a ball of flames and a hail of bullets. Beck and sheriff's Deputy Hagop ``Jake'' Kuredjian both died.

But now there are apparently doubts about who fired the shot that killed the deputy. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the investigation has raised such questions.

``I am quite sure that is something we're going to look into, because it's not clear he was shot by Beck,'' sheriff's Sgt. Paul Patterson told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.

But Sheriff's Lt. Carl Deeley said there is ``absolutely no doubt'' that Kuredjian was killed by Beck. He told KCBS-TV that the angles of the shots prove they came from Beck. Deeley also said Beck apologized during the negotiations for shooting the deputy.

Autopsy results Saturday showed Kuredjian died of a single gunshot wound to the head. He had been struck while crouching behind an SUV parked on the street four houses down from Beck, the Times reported.

As authorities approached the home, Beck began shooting at officers. The exchange of gunfire startled neighbors, especially those who said they saw officers firing at the wrong house.

Homes on either side of Beck's house were riddled with bullet holes, including one where a couple and their 30-hour-old newborn cowered.

``Three bullets came through the (front) window, the master closets and into the master bathroom,'' said Phil Lombardi, the baby's father.

``It was very traumatic. My wife wasn't coping with it. I was trying to comfort her with the newborn child,'' he said.

The total number of rounds fired was unclear and authorities would not give an estimate.

``It was a very extensive gun battle. We have to wait to see what was collected at scene,'' sheriff's Sgt. Patterson said.

The three-hour exchange ended after tear gas projectiles were shot into Beck's house and a fire erupted. Flames quickly engulfed the home, burning it to the ground. But authorities were still unclear how the fire began.

Investigators discovered a body believed to be Beck's. But the coroner's office said an autopsy would not be conducted until at least Tuesday.

Two assault rifles, a shotgun, a semiautomatic pistol and other handguns were collected from the ashes.