ARCADIA >> Prosecutors have filed charges against a teenagers accused of attacking and trying to rob an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Arcadia before the agent shot two of the suspects, killing one, authorities said Thursday.
The encounter took place about 8:15 p.m. on Friday in the area of First Street and Colorado Avenue, just after the off-duty officer and the three suspects all exited a Metro Gold Line train, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Darrius Smith, 15, of Pasadena died at a hospital following the shooting, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
He allegedly pointed what was later determined to be a “realistic-looking” replica handgun at the agent during the incident, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. A 14-year-old suspect was wounded by the gunfire and taken into custody, and a second 15-year-old suspect was arrested in the area uninjured.
Prosecutors filed criminal charges of attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon against the 15-year-old suspect on Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Charges had not been filed against the wounded 14-year-old suspect, who remained hospitalized on Thursday, despite a statement from the sheriff’s department reporting that he, too, had been charged.
Their identities have not been released due to their ages.
“Although charges have been filed, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detectives are continuing their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting,” Navarro-Suarez said.
The 15-year-old suspect appeared at an arraignment hearing Thursday and denied the charges, Risling said. He was scheduled to return to court for another hearing on June 15.
Sheriff’s officials announced that both surviving suspects had been charged, but Risling said that only the elder of the two teens had been charged.
As the investigation, spearheaded by the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, continued in the days that followed, investigators spoke with witnesses, the suspects and the alleged victim, as well as reviewed evidence collected at the scene and autopsy results, Navarro-Suarez said.
Sheriff’s investigators allege the three suspects came up from behind the agent before one of them began punching him in the head, Corina said.
The three teens surrounded the agent, the lieutenant said. Darrius Smith, 15, of Pasadena, allegedly pointed what was later determined to be a “realistic-looking” replica handgun at the agent and demanded his property, the lieutenant said.
Portions of the incident were recorded by area surveillance cameras, officials said. Sheriff’s officials declined to release any of the footage, but said on Thursday that it supported the account of an attempted robbery gone awry.
Surveillance video obtained from the Metro Gold Line shows the off-duty CBP officer and the three teens riding on a train.
“The victim exited the train at the Arcadia Station and walked north on First Avenue from the train station, followed by the subjects. Video shows the subjects running up on the victim where the robbery and shooting occurred,” Navarro-Suarez said.
“After the shooting, 15-year-old subject Smith is seen running away with another 15-year-old subject, north on First Avenue and then east on Colorado Boulevard,” according to the deputy. “Subject Smith is found a half a block away from the scene of the shooting by officers from the Arcadia Police Department. Subject Smith was suffering from two gunshot wounds to his upper body and two gunshot wounds to his buttocks.”
Smith was taken to an area hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
An autopsy carried out Wedbesday by the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner “documented and confirmed” Smith’s injuries, Navarro-Suarez said. But sheriff’s investigators placed a “security hold” on the case, preventing coroner’s officials from releasing information or documents related to the death.
The wounded 14-year-old suspect remained at the scene, Navarro-Suarez said. The off-duty CBP officer held him at gunpoint until local police arrived, took him into custody and took him to a hospital for treatment.
The off-duty officer was treated for “soft tissue damage” to the side of his head, Navarro-Suarez said. His identity has not been released.
An attorney representing Smith’s family and civil rights activists disputed the official account, alleging that Smith was first shot in the legs before standing over him and shooting him in the chest. It was also alleged that the officer chased after Smith at some point.
Sheriff’s officials said the video showed the off-duty officer did not chase after Smith.
“Surveillance footage shows that the officer never left the scene of the shooting, nor did he run after subject Smith onto Colorado Boulevard following the initial encounter and shooting,” Navarro-Suarez said.
And while the handgun allegedly brandished by Smith turned out not to be real, the deputy described it as, “a replica semi-automatic handgun which looks exactly like a real handgun.”
“The manufacturer of the gun boasts on its website that they are the masters of look-alike air guns and that their replica guns are realistic looking,” she added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO of replica handgun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department