Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Homeless Man Arrested After Shooting at Officers with Toy Airsoft Gun

June 8 -- A homeless man was arrested in a Downtown parking structure Wednesday night after firing a pellet gun that appeared to be a real at police officers, according to Santa Monica police.

Patrick Lee Karrigan -- who had six previous brushes with the law for loitering in the parking structures -- was booked for probable cause robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a replica firearm, police said.

“In the dimly lit environment, the officers said the weapon looked real,” Police Chief James T. Butts, Jr. wrote in an email to the City Council and the city manager. “The weapon was loaded with pellets and was operational.”

Four police officers -- two on foot patrol, the other two in a squad car -- were responding to a report of an armed gunman, when they spotted the suspect “standing in the shadows,” Butts wrote.

The officers recognized him from a description as Kerrigan, a 19-year-old homeless man with a Mohawk hairstyle who likely lives in the Downtown area, although his id card lists a Mar Vista address, Butts said.

“The suspect stepped out (of the shadows), pointed an Airsoft pellet gun at the officers and fired three times before the officers could get out of the car and engage” him, Butts said.

Once the suspect realized the intended targets were police officers, he threw the toy gun down and said, “It’s a toy gun, it’s a toy gun!” Butts said.

Butts said the officers, who thought the gun was real, showed restraint and arrested the suspect without incident.

“When the officers illuminated the weapon, they discovered it was clear plastic with a red tip,” Butts said.

Council member Richard Bloom, who has been a key player in addressing the City’s homeless problem, said Kerrigan is a “good example” of a suspect who should face a “community court” that can refer him to services, rather than simply putting him back on the streets.

An alternative to sending homeless offenders to County jail, where they will likely get an early release, “community courts” are being successfully used in other cities, including New York, Bloom said.

Bloom and other City officials have been exploring the possibility of using the system locally.

“This seems to be the kind of case where you would have the opportunity to try someone in a community court,” said Bloom, a member of Bring LA Home, a panel of countywide leaders that hammered out a plan to end homelessness in the next ten years.

“We’re just really cycling people through and not really using the resources of the courts to get them into services,” Bloom said.

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