Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials today confirmed they shot and killed an innocent man by mistake as they were on the hunt for a parole violator.
L.A. County Interim Sheriff John Scott announced an autopsy confirms it was a deputy's bullets that left 54-year-old grandfather Frank Mendoza dead in the doorway of his Pico Rivera home.
Sheriff Scott said officers made split-second decisions in a highly dynamic situation.
"The outcome was a heartbreaking death of an innocent man. As you can all imagine the deputies involved in this incident are devastated by this event," he said.
Officials said an eight-hour hostage situation followed. Officers then charged into the home and shot and killed the suspect.
They said it all started when parole officers and deputies were going to arrest 24-year-old Cedric Ramirez last Friday. Officials said Ramirez ran off first in a car and then on foot. Officials said he fired on them from a driveway and then broke into the back of the nearby house.
A father and two children living there ran out the front door. Deputies then saw a man in the doorway and mistakenly thought he was Ramirez. They shot from about 15 feet away. Mendoza was shot in the forehead and the leg and collapsed in the doorway.
"They are devastated because it was not the person they thought it was," Scott said. Scott acknowledged deputies were face-to-face with Mendoza but say they made their "split-second" decision to open fire. He also acknowledged that "we were responsible in large part" for the death. "But let's not forget, the suspect started this whole thing and created the situation that brought harm to the family."
SWAT teams then arrived and officials say Ramirez held Mendoza's wife hostage in the home for eight hours before officials charged in and killed him.
Scott said Ramirez was armed with a revolver and fired more than six shots in all. He says four deputies fired 25 shots in all.
Scott said the Sheriff's department expresses its "deepest condolences and prayers for the Mendoza family."
"It was a tragic event for all of us," Scott said, adding that the sheriff's department is helping to pay for funeral expenses and is offering housing for the Mendoza family.
The parolee was more than 50 pounds lighter than Mendoza, as well as two inches taller.
Scott said deputies made a split-second decision to fire during what he called a “highly dynamic” situation.
The L.A. County Coroner’s Office has not publicly released Mendoza’s autopsy report.
This story has been updated.