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Costa Mesa police officer killed one and wounded another

by Michael webster Thursday, Mar. 13, 2008 at 7:28 PM 949 494-7121

Riverside County Sheriff's Department said at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday evening officers responded to a call of shots fired and a report of an assault in progress involving a deadly weapon in Old Town Temecula after words were exchanged between the off-duty cop and the persons shot.

An off-duty Costa Mesa officer was a party to a brawl in Temecula and shot two men both victims believed unarmed.

Riverside County Sheriff's department say an off-duty Costa Mesa police officer is accused of shooting two people, including one who died, during a fight Saturday in Temecula, as an annual car show was wrapping up, sheriff's deputies said. " the man was drinking and out of control witnesses later said.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department said at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday evening officers responded to a call of shots fired and a report of an assault in progress involving a deadly weapon in Old Town Temecula after words were exchanged between the off-duty cop and the persons shot. The fight began in a nearby local Mexican bar and restaurant according to witnesses. Deputies report said upon arrival they found two people had gunshot wounds and had been shot by the off-duty officer. At least two were treated at the seen and taken to the hospital, where one person died.

"The fight started at a Mexican restaurant bar and spilled onto Main Street in the Old Town entertainment district," according to Riverside County sheriff's Deputy Craig Roberts.

One of the persons involved was an off-duty Costa Mesa police officer. He later told investigators that others attacked him and that he identified himself as a police officer, pulled a handgun and started firing, Roberts said. Another person may have been wounded in the gunfire, Roberts said.

Deputies learned the Costa Mesa officer had fired the shots, and was taken into custody transported to a local hospital but later released. Hospital personal told the Journal the officer had a head injury. No other guns were found at the location by police.

"Witnesses said some men were beating the officer pretty badly, possibly kicking him in the head," Temecula police Chief Jerry Williams said. "

“What gives that man the right to pull out his gun in public? When children are present?” said Karen Crowley, whose son, Shaun Vilan, was killed Saturday night. He was 30 years old. “I’m just so tired of this story getting twisted.”

Shaun Adam Vilan

Vilan’s group and the officer exchanged words inside the restaurant and the dispute eventually ended up outside, according to police. From there, police still can’t say what happened and decline to speculate.

“That would be slanting the story, and we don’t do that,” said Investigator Jerry Franchville.

Vilan’s family paints a picture of an off-duty officer drunk and out of control. They said the officer waited outside with friends for Vilan and his friends. The second shooting victim, 22-year-old Taylor Willis, remains hospitalized, Vilan’s family said.

When they went outside things took a turn for the worse.

“The guy [officer] was slurring his words, other people dove and tackled him after the shooting started,” said Lewis Brooks, Vilan’s brother who was there that night. Vilan’s son, Dillan, his girlfriend, Dara Lewenthal, and his second brother, Michael Brooks, were also there.

The group enjoys the annual Temecula Rod Run, a hot-rod car show that Lewis Brooks had entered his car in.

The officer, whom authorities decline to identify, was sitting down outside the Bank of Mexican Food restaurant Saturday night because he “didn’t feel well,” according to investigators. Some time after, Shaun Vilan, 30, Taylor Willis, 22, and two or three other men attacked the officer from behind, witnesses not associated with either party told authorities, sheriff’s investigator Jerry Franchville said. One of the attackers smashed a chair or other hard object into the officer’s head, sending him to the ground as blood poured from his head down his face, Franchville said.

The officer showed his ID and said loud enough for witnesses to hear that he was an off-duty cop, Franchville said. When the men continued to attack, the officer pulled out his gun and shot five times at his two nearest assailants, hitting Vilan and Willis twice each, investigators said.

Craig Puma, owner of the Bank of Mexican Food restaurant, said about five shots rang out on Old Town Front Street around 7:30 p.m. near his restaurant.

"It was terrifying, absolutely. Not a great ending to the Rod Run," Puma said of the popular three-day show that began Thursday.

He said it had been a great day for the car show and that 650 hot rods and classic cars lined the streets.

About 45,000 people attended the event, organizers said.

Puma said about 60 people were eating dinner inside the restaurant when the shooting began.

He said he didn't see the shooting but heard it clearly.

"We actually got everyone down on the ground until it was over and the police got here," he said in a telephone interview.

He said he saw one shooting victim being resuscitated for 20 minutes.

Two hours later, police were still questioning those inside the restaurant, Puma said. He said deputies were holding people inside the restaurant for questioning for hours.

Costa Mesa Police and Riverside County Sheriff's department officials still decline to release the name of the off duty police officer. That is routine in officer-involved shootings. Costa Mesa police officials said they do not often reveal officer’s identities during investigations.

“Right now there’s too much speculation and it’s still under investigation,” said Costa Mesa Police Chief Chris Shawkey. The officer suffered head injuries and is recovering at home, officials said. He is on paid administrative leave for an undetermined amount of time, Shawkey said.

According to court records and news reports in the O.C. register Vilan, who was on parole after spending six years in state prison for two assaults, had a lengthy history of ganging up on people and attacking them, according to court records. His convictions included two unprovoked assaults in 1996 and 1998, which involve Vilan smashing two people in the face with beer bottles.

In a 1996 attack, Vilan smashed a man in the face with a beer bottle, and continued to hold the broken bottle over his victim's face until the man's brother hit Vilan over the head with a wrench.

In the 1998 incident, Vilan, who was on bail at the time, approached a guest at a birthday party and sniffed him, saying, "You smell like white trash." The two men squared off, but before any punches could be thrown, Vilan smashed a beer bottle in the face of the man who stepped between them, court records show.

An October 2001 opinion by Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District, also show a series of allged assaults for which Vilan was never charged, including a birthday party in August 1996 when Vilan and a friend were said to have brutally beat a guest who tried to stop them from ransacking the bedroom of the host's father, punching him and stomping on his head with steel-toed boots.

A month later, Vilan and two other men were accused of jumping the brother of one of Vilan's previous victims, punching him, knocking him to the ground and kicking him, court records show.

In November 1997, according to court accounts, Vilan and two other men attacked a man eating in his car with his girlfriend outside a fast-food restaurant, punching and kicking him.

Two months later, Vilan punched a man in the face three times just for looking at him, according to court records.

"None of the victims did any provoking – Vilan and his cohorts did all the provoking. All the victims were outnumbered. All the encounters featured 'low blows,' i.e., unfair fighting by Vilan and his cohorts," wrote Manuel A. Ramirez, presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, 4rth Appellate District, in the October 2001 opinion rejecting Vilan's appeal that evidence admitted in his two trials was improperly admitted.

Vilan worked as a day trader after being released from prison 2.5 years ago.

Family and friends held a candlelight vigil in Old Town Temecula on Tuesday night to remember Vilan.

Temecula police detectives and the Riverside Direct Attorneys office are believed investigating the shooting. Authorities are releasing to the news media very little information at this time. The Costa Mesa Police Department said the incident would be reviewed by its internal affairs investigators, but the officer had not been suspended nor expected to be.

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