ROSEMEAD — A 40-year-old Rosemead woman fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy while allegedly attacking him with a hammer had a long history of mental illness, officials said Thursday.
Jazmyne Ha Eng died at the scene of Tuesday’s 3:40 p.m. deputy-involved shooting at the Asian Pacific Family Center, 9353 Valley Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said. Sheriff’s officials said she was a Rosemead resident.
Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Eng was known to the facility staff prior to Wednesday’s incident.
“She had been a patient there suffering from a few maladies relating to mental illness,” the lieutenant said. “She’d been dealing with her mental health for many years.” He declined to give more details on her conditions.
Three deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station responded to a report that a possibly mentally ill woman was sitting in the lobby of the clinic with a hammer in her lap and “acting sort of erratic,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tom McNeal said.
Officials said the woman was a patient at the center, which treats issues such as mental health and substance abuse.
According to DMV records, she stood 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighed about 95 pounds.
“When deputies entered the lobby of the location, they encountered (Eng), wielding a hammer above her head, screaming,” Deputy Peter Gomez said in a written statement.
Dolson described the weapon as a “full-sized ball peen hammer.”
The deputies tried to talk to the woman but she did not respond to their commands, the deputy said. A deputy tried to shock the woman with a Taser, however it was not effective.
“She then advanced towards to deputies, with hammer over head,” Gomez said. “Fearing for his safety, a deputy fired two rounds from his duty weapon, striking her.”
The hammer was recovered from the scene, officials said.
No one answered the phone Thursday at a number listed in public records as belonging to Eng.
Representatives from the Asian Pacific Family Center could not be reached for comment.
Sheriff’s records indicate no previous major incidents at the facility in the past year.
Deputies responded to six calls at the Asian Pacific Family Center in 2011, officials said. They included an out-of-control child, a schizophrenic man who was talking to himself, a burglary alarm, a man passed out in a car, a stolen license plate and suspicious person who was ultimately determined to be a woman whose car had broken down, officials said.
Detectives were continuing their investigation and gathering information on Eng’s history, Dolson said.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to her Rosemead home about two weeks prior to the shooting when someone reported a possibly mentally ill woman, Dolson said. Deputies spoke with the involved parties and the situation was resolved without further incident.
Sheriff’s officials declined to release the deputies names or say whether they were put on leave following the incident.
Like all Los Angeles County deputy-involved shootings, the incident is being investigated by the sheriff’s department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review.
Based on a preliminary review of the basic facts released to the public thus far in the case, use of force expert Rocky Warren of Warren consulting said that while unfortunate, “It sounds like the officer did what had to be done.”
Warren teaches police tactics to instructors throughout the country and often testified as an expert witness in police use of force cases.
“There are a lot of factors that go into this,” he said, such as the distance between the suspects and deputies and the physical surroundings in which the encounter occurred.
The diminutive size of the suspect, “really doesn’t make as much of a difference as people think it does,” Warren said. “What’s important is how fast can a person travel in three-quarters of a second to a second. That’s reaction time.”
An average person can cover 12 to 15 feet of ground in three-quarters of a second, he said, the same amount of time required for an officer to decide whether to fire a weapon. The issue is referred to as the “reaction time dilemma.”
Warren said he would never train an officer to engage any suspect armed with a weapon capable of deadly force in hand-to-hand combat. “That would be 100 percent foolish,” he said.
Wednesday’s incident was the second shooting involving deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station this week.
A deputy shot at a man, though it was unclear if he was struck, as the deputy tried to arrest the man on suspicion of drug possession, officials said.
The deputy stopped the man as he rode a bicycle about 4:30 p.m. in the 10600 block of Lower Azusa Road, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
A fight ensued and the deputy pepper sprayed the man, though he continued to struggle with the deputy, Lt. Tom McNeal said.
When the suspect reached into his waistband, the deputy feared for his safety and opened fire, McNeal said.
The suspect ran off and remained at large, officials said. It was not clear if he was wounded.
PHOTO of Jazmyne Eng courtesy of the California DMV