EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Detectives are investigating the circumstances Sunday surrounding a deputy involved shooting with two male suspects who were both fatally wounded.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the incident was set off by a fake gun.
Deputies were sent around 2:40 a.m. to the 5300 block of Verona Street for a report of an assault with a deadly weapon.
Once on scene, a witness flagged down authorities and said two suspects in a vehicle pointed a weapon at him.
KCAL9’s Joy Benedict spoke with Lt. John Corina who said the witness did not know the suspects.
Around 2:20 a.m. the alleged victim, a 32-year-old man, was walking through a business parking lot in the 1100 block of Atlantic Boulevard when he noticed a light-colored SUV driving through the same parking lot.
The suspects drove alongside the victim while pointing a gun, but no words were exchanged. They then drove away heading north on Atlantic Boulevard.
“They were strangers to him,” Corina explained. “He was a little shaken up that they pointed a handgun at him. That’s why he called 911 to report it, and that’s when deputies picked up the vehicle.”
The witnesses gave a description of the suspect vehicle, which led officials to locate the suspects.
Four deputies reportedly pulled over the suspect vehicle and ordered the two men to step out.
Police explained the car continued a short distance and proceeded to park in the driveway of an apartment complex located in the 5300 block of Verona Street.
After parking, one suspect exited and pulled a handgun out of his pants, pointing it in the direction of the deputies. The second suspect exited the driver side of the vehicle and stood behind the suspect.
Deputies then discharged their weapons at the suspects.
The two suspects — a 26-year-old passenger and a 57-year-old driver believed to be from the area — were shot and killed at the scene.
They were reportedly drinking at a nearby bar before the incident occurred.
Family members told Benedict the younger victim — Eduardo Bermudez, 26, of Hesperia — was dropped off at his sister’s house in Verona for a child’s birthday on Saturday where he had been drinking all day.
Bermudez’s family also claimed he had a BB gun with him, not a hand gun.
Officers have confirmed that the weapon recovered at the scene was found to be a replica of a .45-caliber handgun.
An initial report from witnesses indicated deputies were searching for a third suspect, however, the search was called off.
Adrianna Weingold, reporting for CBS2, was there when Bermudez’ parents, both crying uncontrollably, stood where their son was shot and killed by deputies.
“He was always there, like my brother, that I never had. He always looked out for me,” said Bermudez cousin Alma Cabrera.
Family members and witnesses disputed the official version of events as presented by deputies.
Witnesses like Dolce Montiel say Bermudez and the 57-year-old driver — his friend and neighbor — were hanging out after a party for his 3-year-old nephew. She says Bermudez had a BB gun but never showed it to police, and she says the two never left the neighborhood in a car.
On Sunday evening, the Coroner identified the 57-year-old man as Ricardo Avelar-Lara of Los Angeles.
“The cops said ‘Put your hands up, put your hands up’ then he had his hands up and he was printing at his chest saying you don’t know who I am and that’s when they opened fire at him they just brutally murdered him,” said Montiel.
She and other friends are visibly shaken, angry their loved ones are dead. They say after police shot and killed the two men, it took paramedics 40 minutes to arrive.
“They didn’t have to use that much force. I don’t think that’s fair, he was a good kid, he never hurt nobody, and for them to just take him like that, it’s not fair,” said Montiel.
No deputies were injured during the shooting.