Wednesday, October 30, 2002
County to Pay $200,000 to Families Caught Up in Stevenson Ranch Shootout
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The county Board of Supervisors yesterday agreed to pay $200,000 to two families who narrowly missed being injured in a 2001 shootout that ended with the deaths of a convicted felon and a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy.
On a 3-1 vote, the board approved payments of $167,500 to Marilyn and Philip Lombardi and $37,500 to Steve Rizzo and his four-year-old daughter, Taylor. Both families were neighbors of James Allen Beck, who opened fire on sheriff’s deputies and federal agents when they were trying to serve a search warrant on him at a home in the Stevenson Ranch area of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Lombardis took cover with their newborn daughter in their bathroom for several hours during the siege as deputies mistakenly fired into their home. Steve Rizzo, who initially alerted federal agents that Beck was holding himself out as a U.S. marshal, called 911 and asked that he and his daughter be evacuated from their house. But officials removed them only after tear gas used on Beck began to seep into the Rizzo home.
Beck burned to death when his house caught fire. Deputy Hagop “Jake” Kuredjian died of bullet wounds believed to have been inflicted by Beck.
The money will come from the Sheriff’s Department budget.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich yesterday criticized the execution of the search warrant and the lack of coordination between the Sheriff’s Department and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“The bottom line is that this was not a well-executed operation,” Antonovich said. “Sheriff personnel were unaware of the address of the suspect and shot at the houses on either side.”
Antonovich noted that both the sheriff and the ATF had conducted a force review and that both have changed their polices and are “committed to increased coordination efforts in the future.”
The supervisor said the sheriff will refuse to assist the ATF in the future without advance written notice of a plan.
Gloria Molina voted against the settlement. Zev Yaroslavsky was absent for the vote.
The federal government previously settled with both families for $100,000.
The Aug. 31, 2001 shootout began when federal marshals tried to serve a search warrant on Beck, who had aroused his neighbors’ suspicions with his large gun collection and claims that he was a deputy federal marshal.
When agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the ATF tried to serve the warrant, with help from sheriff’s deputies, Beck began shooting at them. During the ensuing standoff, deputies just arriving on the scene mistakenly fired into the Lombardis’ house, thinking it was the source of the gunfire.
The Lombardis have settled a separate claim with the county regarding extensive damage to their home.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company