LA PUENTE — A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot an armed 24-year-old La Puente man who allegedly fled from a traffic stop, authorities said Sunday.
The man was shot after reportedly twice reaching for his waistband. A silver handgun was found on the man’s body, officials said.
Cesar Mendoza died at a hospital shortly after the shooting, Sgt. Robert Gray of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The dead man was the front passenger in a Nissan sedan that deputies stopped just before 9:50 p.m. The car allegedly ran a stop sign in a residential neighborhood at Loukelton Street and Ballista Avenue, sheriff’s officials said.
About the time the Nissan pulled over, Mendoza ran, Gray said.
One of the two deputies in the patrol car that pulled over the car remained with the Nissan and two other men who were inside it while the second deputy chased after Mendoza.
“At one point during the foot-pursuit, the suspect turned, reached for his waistband and attempted to retrieve a handgun. Fearing for his safety, the deputy fired several rounds at the suspect,” Deputy Irys Alvarez of the Sheriff’ Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
It was not clear if the man was wounded by the deputy’s gunfire.
“(Mendoza) continued to run, turned around a second time reaching for his waistband,” Alvarez’s statement said. “The deputy once again fired several rounds, striking (Mendoza) in the upper torso.”
Paramedics took Mendoza to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:28 p.m., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said.
No deputies were injured, and a loaded handgun was founded tucked in Mendoza’s waistband, Gray said.
“He actually never got it all the way out,” Gray said.
Mendoza was believed to have gang ties, the sergeant said.
The shootings took place along the sidewalk of Loukelton Street, within 100 feet from the scene of the original traffic stop, Gray said.
Two “acquaintances” of Mendoza were detained and questioned, but ultimately released, the sergeant said. They were described as a man in his 30s and a man in his 60s.
A roadside memorial comprised of candles flowers, rosaries, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and a can of Chelada on Sunday marked the spot where Mendoza was fatally shot.
Mendoza’a mother, Maria Mendoza, said he was survived by a 5-year-old son, Angel.
She and Cesar Mendoza’s brother, James Martinez, said they doubted the official account of the shooting given by sheriff’s investigators.
They said they understood that Cesar Mendoza ran from the vehicle following the traffic stop, but never turned to confront the pursuing deputy.
All of the bullets struck Mendoza from behind, family members said.
An autopsy had not yet been performed Sunday, MacWillie said.
Gray declined to identify the deputy involved in the shooting Sunday, citing an active investigation and concerns for the deputy’s safety.
In keeping with department policy, the deputy was on leave Sunday pending investigation into the shooting and psychological evaluation.