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A tale of two shootings by the Riverside Police Department this week

by Mary Shelton Friday, Jun. 15, 2001 at 7:18 AM
chicalocaside@yahoo.com

In two separate incidents, the police confront two men, who allegedly welded two knives. As the dust settled, one was taken to the hospital with bruises. The other to the morgue with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. The first was white, the second asian. As police rush to justify the fatal shooting of Vanpaseuth Phaisouphanh, many questions remain...

Last Sunday, a police officer shot and killed an Asian-American man, who allegedly charged him holding two knives. Only two days later, a white man who slashed a security guard, and threatened police, holding several knives in his hands was shot by police after a 30 minutes standoff, abeilt with beanbags.

Vanpaseuth Phaisouphanh, 25 died at Riverside Community Hospital of multiple gunshots to the chest. According to police, officer Edgar Porche was dispatched on a 911 call to a residence to assist a man, who was allegedly stabbed by Phaisouphanh. After Porche exited his car, Phaisouphanh approached him with a steak knife in each hand. Porche yelled at Phaisouphanh to drop the knives, and at that point, according to officer accounts, Phaisouphanh allegedly charged the officer, who fired multiple gunshots into his chest. Emergancy personnel already at the scene administered assitance before taking him to the hospital.

Police officials took the preemptive strike of calling the shooting, 'justifiable' while at the same time, saying that it was too soon to make an official statement. A member of the family said to an activist that there are witnesses who contradict the official version of the events, even though the police claim that six witnesses collaberated the officer's story, in the June 12 issue of the Press-Enterprise newspaper.

The autopsy is to be conducted Thursday, and the family has yet to view the body of their loved one.

High ranking police officials plan to meet with members of the Community Police Review Commission in closed session, to debrief them on the investigation of the shooting up to that point. During the open session, public comment will be taken in regards to the shooting, before the commissioners go into closed session. According to the ordinance that led to the creation of the Commission, the death of any individual from the actions, or arising from the actions of a sworn officer is to be investigated by the Commission regardless of whether a complaint is filed.

Porche was hired by the department less than a year ago.

On Tuesday, eight police squad cars responded to another incident involving a person armed with two knives, who had taken over a department store at the Riverside Plaza. He had allegedly slashed a security guard and threatened the lives of police officers as well as his own. Police officers negotiated with him, for over 30 minutes before shooting him with bean bags that struck him in the chest and arm. He was taken to the hospital in Moreno Valley with bruises, a fate far different than that experienced by Phaisouphanh. This man, interestingly enough, was white.

The homicide investigation into this shooting is being handled by several detectives from the crimes against persons division of the department, rather than being transferred to a different police agency as is customary with other agencies. Its findings will be referred to the District Attorney's office where a panal of prosecutors will meet and determine whether to file any charges against Porche. Throughout it's history, the DA has never filed criminal charges against an officer for an onduty shooting of a civilian.

When I contacted Sgt. John DeLaRosa from that unit to interview him for the newspaper I write for, I was told repeatedly to read the local paper for the answers to my questions, and I almost asked, is the local paper your spokesperson?

An administrative investigation to determine whether Porche violated any departmental policies during the shooting has also been initiated, by the Internal Affairs division of the department.

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