PICO RIVERA >> A sheriff’s deputy was believed to have accidentally shot a Pico Rivera man Friday during a gun battle with a fleeing parolee who had broken into his home, authorities said Saturday.
A SWAT team ultimately shot and killed the gunman after he held the homeowner’s wife hostage for eight hours, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Division Chief William McSweeney. The hostage was rescued unharmed.
Coroner’s officials did not officially identify the slain homeowner Saturday, however family members identified him as Frank Mendoza. The rescued hostage was his wife, 60-year-old Lorraine Munoz, family members said.
Parolee Cedric Ramirez, 24, of Pico Rivera was killed about 1:30 a.m. as SWAT deputies forced their way into the home in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The incident began about eight hours earlier when Ramirez fled from officials and ran into the home, engaging deputies in a shootout, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
The deadly encounter began about 5:30 p.m. Friday when sheriff’s gang deputies spotted Ramirez, a wanted parolee with two felony warrants, in the 9000 block of Reichling Lane.
“He entered the backyard of the victims’ residence where he exchanged gunfire with the deputies,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “Ramirez then broke into the victims’ home through a window.”
“Pursuing deputies, fearful the occupants would be harmed, went to the home’s front door and began evacuating the residents from the house. An adult and two children were rushed from the house when Ramirez appeared in an interior hallway and began shooting at the Deputies. The Deputies returned fire and then retreated to the front yard, seeking cover,” McSweeney said.
“Within seconds of their exit, an adult male suddenly appeared in the front doorway,” the chief said. “Believing the man was Ramirez, a deputy fired two shots at the man. The man dropped unconscious in the doorway and was subsequently recognized to be one of the residents. Preliminary information indicates those shots likely struck Mr. Frank Mendoza.”
Paramedics pronounced Mendoza dead at the scene.
Officials said Ramirez then fled into the home, taking the 60-year-old woman hostage. Nishida said. A SWAT team surrounded the home as a crisis negotiator spoke with Ramirez by telephone and tried to persuade him to surrender peacefully.
After eight hours, the SWAT team moved in.
“After an extended standoff, a Special Enforcement Bureau, special weapons team, entered the location which ended with the fatal shooting of the suspect,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. Deputies rescued the woman, and Ramirez died at the scene.
Family members of the victims and neighbors described a harrowing ordeal.
Frank Mendoza lived at the Rosehedge Drive home with his wife, four sons, and young grandchildren, daughter-in-law Tanya Mendoza said.
When the shooting began and Frank Mendoza was mortally wounded, one of his sons who was home at the time gathered his two young children and rushed them out of the home, family members said.
Deputies rushed them to cover behind a parked car, said Sandra Monge, whose 83-year-old mother and brother live next door to the involved home. They were trapped for about two hours before being evacuated by deputies through their back yard.
While continuing to trade gunfire with Ramirez, deputies pulled Frank Mendoza around the corner and out of the line of fire, neighbors said. It was there, at the corner of Lindsey Avenue and Reichling Drive, that the wounded man was pronounced dead.
Lorraine Munoz, who walks with difficulty and uses a wheelchair or cane, was not able to get out of the home.
Family members did not know Ramirez, Tanya Mendoza said, adding that it appeared he broke into a random house while fleeing deputies.
“This incident was beyond tragic, and all of law enforcement grieves with the Mendoza family,” McSweeney said. “We have made personal contact with the family, and have expressed our regret and sadness over these events.
“This investigation continues, and every aspect of this incident will be assessed for compliance with the law and Department policy,” McSweeney said.
Ramirez was in violation of his parole and being sought on warrants for being an convicted felon in possession of a firearm and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent when deputies encountered him Friday, officials said.
Los Angeles County court records show Ramirez was convicted in of possessing a loaded firearm along with narcotics in 2013, vandalism in 2008 and carrying a loaded gun in 2007.
Heartbroken family members described Frank Mendoza as a light-spirited and dedicated family man who had lived at the same home on Rosehedge Drive for 32 years.
“He was just a great guy,” sister Kathy Mendoza said.
“He was hard-working man,” she said, adding that her brother was three months away from retiring from his job working on machines for a grocery company, where he had worked since he was a young man.
In addition to his wife, he’s survived by four sons, one daughter, two step-sons and one step-daughter, Tanya Mendoza said. He had 12 grandchildren and two more on the way, and two great grandchildren.
“He was a joker. He was always willing to help,” Kathy Mendoza said.
“He was always the life of the party,” son Jeremy Mendoza said.
Tanya Mendoza thanked the community for its support following Friday’s tragedy.
The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is spearheading the investigation. As is common procedure in Los Angeles County deputy-involved shootings, the incident is also being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review.
PHOTOS: (TOP) Family members of a slain homeowner and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators congregate in front of the home where a wanted parolee allegedly engaged deputies in a shoot-out, killing 54-year-old Frank Mendoza. Ramirez then allegedly took Mendoza’s 60-year-old wife hostage for about eight hours before he was shot and killed by a SWAT team in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. (Staff photo by Brian Day) BELOW: Frank Mendoza, 54, of Pico Rivera (right), pictured with wife Lorraine Munoz, 60. Mendoza died during a shoot-out between sheriff’s deputies and a fleeing parolee as the suspect forced his way into the couple’s home. Munoz was held hostage by the suspect for more than eight hours before a SWAT team killed him and rescued her in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera in the early morning hours on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.
(Courtesy of the Mendoza family)