WEST WHITTIER — A mourning mother is questioning the fatal shooting of her son by a sheriff’s deputy in the backyard of his home last week.
Robert McAfee Jr., 29, of Whittier allegedly pointed a gun at a deputy prior to being shot July 19 in a backyard in the 6800 block of Duchess Drive, in the unincorporated county area of West Whittier, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
But McAfee’s mother, Lydia Provencio of Maryland, said the official account conflicts with information she has received about the shooting from witnesses. And her son had recently told her he was afraid of Pico Rivera sheriff’s deputies.
“I just want the truth out,” the mother said. “I don’t believe my son was an angel. Nevertheless. he was my son. And i just think life should have respect, no matter what, no matter who you are.”
In a written statement issued by the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau the day of the shooting, a deputy and a sergeant were on patrol when, “they stopped to talk to two known gang members.”
As the deputy and sergeant exited their car, one of the two men — later identified as McAfee — ran to the backyard of a nearby home, according to the sheriff’s statement.
The sergeant followed McAfee into the yard and saw McAfee standing in the backyard and pointing a handgun “in his direction,” prompting the sergeant to open fire, sheriff’s officials said. The name of the involved sergeant was not released.
An autopsy determined McAfee died from a gunshot wound to the chest, coroner Lt. Larry Dietz said. He had also suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to his hip.
The sheriff’s statement indicated the suspect’s loaded handgun was recovered from the scene.
But Provencio said she understood that the gun was recovered from the backyard of a next door neighbor. She questioned how that was possible if her son had been pointing the gun at the sergeant, as sheriff’s officials described. There was no one else in the backyard, she added.
No one answered the door at the neighboring home Saturday.
The handling homicide detectives could not be reached for comment.
Neighbor Jessica Gutierrez said she was making lunch for her son when she heard what sounded like three gunshots.
She said what she saw next contradicted the scenario given by sheriff’s officials, who stated that the shooting took place within the backyard.
“When I heard the first gunshot, I looked and saw the deputy shooting outside of the backyard, standing in the driveway, and after he shot he ran in the backyard. “
The officers did spend some time in the neighbors backyard, and the detectives also went back there for a period of time.
Gutierrez said she did not know whether a gun was recovered from the neighboring yard.
“(Deputies) did spend some time in the neighbors backyard, and the detectives also went back there for a period of time,” she said.
The two yards are separated by a thick hedge about 8 feet tall.
A memorial of candles sat on McAfee’s front porch of the home of McAfee and his father, Robert McAfee Sr., however no one answered the door Saturday.
Provencio said her son had encountered Pico Rivera-based deputies many times, and the home where he lived with his father was searched by deputies about two weeks before the fatal deputy-involved shooting. The son described the encounters as harassment and told his mother he feared for his safety.
“He called me two-and-a-half to three weeks ago and he said, ‘Mom, they’re out to kill me,’” Provencio said.
She said she asked him what he had been doing to gain the attention of deputies, and he responded that he had been largely staying at home and trying to avoid any trouble.
The mother said she was aware her son, who had served time in jail, was involved with a gang. But she said she couldn’t imagine that he would point a gun at a sheriff’s deputy.
McAfee had been released from jail in February, his mother said.
He had a criminal history dating back to 2004, according to search of Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in June of 2012. In 2009, he was convicted of drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of drugs.
McAfee was convicted of domestic battery in 2006, and the unlawful taking of a vehicle in 2004, records show. He had convictions for driving on a suspended or revoked license in 2009, 2009 and twice in 2005.
Beyond having doubts about the shooting itself, Provencio said the manner in which family members were treated in the hours after the deputy-involved shooting was “cruel.”
For more than four hours, officials would not tell family members whether McAfee was involved, or whether he was dead.
In addition to his parents, Robert McAfee Jr. is survived by his wife, Edna McAfee; their sons Robert III, 7, and Charles, 5; and two brothers, Provencio said.
PHOTO of Robert McAfee Jr., 29, of Whittier (courtesy)