CHINO HILLS – The Sheriff’s Department is refusing to release any information related to an Oct. 4 officer-involved shooting at the Shoppes Lifestyle center in Chino Hills.
Sheriff’s officials have refused to name the off-duty officer involved in the shooting or any of the victims and have declined to elaborate on the circumstances of the shooting, which they initially described as a “road rage” incident.
In refusing to provide the information, sheriff’s Lt. Brett Williams said providing any information would “endanger the successful completion of a criminal investigation and endanger the safety of persons involved in an investigation.”
Williams also noted that a law enforcement agency’s criminal investigative records are privileged for an indefinite period of time, and providing such materials would violate the privacy of involved police officers, witnesses and a victims.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said the Sheriff’s Department is wrong to withhold all information.
“When someone who is an off-duty law enforcement official is involved in a public violent episode such as a shooting, officials can’t hide behind public confidentiality rules,” Scheer said.
“They need to explain the best they can to the public, and they can do that consistent with protection the civil and privacy rights of all people involved.
“They are certainly in the position to tell the public more than `no comment,’ and they have an obligation to explain the circumstances,” Scheer said.
“And if it turns out to be the case that the off-duty police officer at the time of the shooting is being investigated in his personal capacity … then the special confidentiality rules for police should not apply at all.”
Investigators confirmed the shooting had been sparked by road rage, but did not release who detectives believe was the aggressor or provide details on the incident.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said the officer involved was considered an average citizen at the time of the shooting and was carrying a concealed weapon legally.
She declined to release his name.
According to sheriff’s officials, the altercation began on the 71 Freeway. Both drivers pulled off the freeway and stopped at the Shoppes.
The off-duty officer told investigators that the four men exited their vehicle and approached him. The officer said he saw objects in the hands of two of the four men.
The officer then opened fire, wounding two.
Sheriff’s officials have refused to identify the wounded or provide any information on their current condition.
Dozens of witnesses and shopping center patrons were stranded for several hours as sheriff’s homicide detectives conducted interviews and surveyed the scene.
Business resumed normally the next morning, with customers coming and going from various stores.
Little evidence remained of the previous night’s events except for vehicles from television news outlets.
No one has been arrested, leaving some puzzled and concerned.
Assistant Sheriff Ron Cochran said the Sheriff’s Department stands by its decision to withhold further information.
The off-duty Huntington Park police officer is a victim in this case, Cochran said, adding that it is still under investigation.
“We have no other comment at this time,” Cochran said.