A policeman who killed an actor—a Screen Actors Guild member—who was holding a realistic fake gun at a Halloween party shot the man in the back of the head and in the back, an autopsy report showed.
A lawyer for Anthony Dwain Lee's family contends the findings released last Monday contradict police accounts that Officer Tarriel Hopper shot Lee after he turned suddenly toward the officer and pointed the fake gun at him.
Police Chief Bernard Parks disagreed. "The officer cannot control the movement of the person," Parks said today. Hopper "did not say the person was not moving. So if the person points a gun at the officer and the officer shoots and the person moves, we have no control over where they are standing when they are struck by the weapon."
The coroner's report concluded that Lee was struck from behind by four bullets. Two in the back caused his death as they tore through vital organs.
"He could not have withdrawn a gun from his waist and pointed a gun at the officer and then have been shot four times in the back. It's impossible," said Cameron Stewart, an attorney with the law firm of Johnnie Cochran Jr., who was retained by Lee's family. Stewart said she will file a claim with the city of Los Angeles, the first step in a wrongful-death action. The report also showed cocaine and alcohol were found in Lee's system.
Last month, at the instruction of the Screen Actors Guild's national board of directors, SAG president William Daniels sent a letter dated Nov. 3 to Police Chief Parks and L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti regarding the Oct. 28 death of Lee.
Daniels wrote: "This letter is to express (SAG's) concern over the circumstances surrounding the reported shooting and killing of SAG member Anthony Dwain Lee by LAPD officer Tarriel Hopper. This was a subject of discussion at the SAG National Board Plenary meeting Oct. 29 in which our board resolved to appeal to you both to ensure a full and fair investigation into this matter is carried out."
Lee, 39, reportedly pointed a toy gun at Hopper, who was investigating a noise complaint at the Benedict Canyon Halloween party the actor was attending. Mistaking the realistic-looking prop gun for the real thing, the officer opened fire. Lee had small roles in films like "Liar, Liar" and on such television shows as "ER," "NYPD Blue" and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."