Body camera footage released in fatal police shooting of woman at California home
Authorities on Thursday released body camera footage and radio communication of a police shooting in which officers killed a woman who reportedly pointed a rifle at officers in front of a Long Beach home during a possible “suicide by cop” incident.
The woman, identified as Laruen Archibeque, 38, died April 2 after officers fired at her multiple times as she stood at the front porch of a home on Golden Avenue. Fire paramedics pronounced her dead at the residence.
Police arrived at the home on the 2800 block of Golden Avenue about 5:15 a.m. after a caller told authorities a man inside the home died and a woman, later identified as Archibeque, was threatening to kill herself inside a vehicle parked in front of the home, police said in the video.
The man later was identified as Justin Lomako, 49, of Long Beach. Officers found Lomako inside the home with lacerations to his throat. Coroner officials said Lomako’s death was a possible suicide, said Arantxa Chavarria, spokeswoman for Long Beach police.
Lomako and Archibeque were in a dating relationship, Chavarria said.
The video begins with audio from the 911 call in which the caller, a bystander, is heard telling dispatchers that Archibeque is holding a gun but is not dangerous.
“I don’t think she’s dangerous,” the caller said to a dispatcher. “She has a gun … but I don’t think she’s ‘gonna shoot anybody. She’s very emotional.”
“It’s her boyfriend who apparently died,” the caller said. “I don’t know why he died.”
The bystander could be heard pleading with Lauren to put the gun down, telling her that police were on their way.
Body camera footage shows the first officer and his partner entering the Golden Avenue home. A bystander points down a hallway, saying Archibeque is “very upset right now.”
After officers announce they are with the police department and call out to Archibeque, she could be heard answering back, “Let me die,” amid crying.
“No Lauren, we want to help you,” the first officer wearing the body camera showing the footage said.
After about a minute and a half calling out to Archibeque who is heard continuing to cry, the first officer walks down the hallway, where he finds her in a bedroom and begins to talk with her.
“We’re not here to hurt you, I just need you to drop that,” the first officer says in the video, noting to his partner that she carried what appeared to be gun before backing out of the house.
After about 90 seconds, as officers stand by their patrol vehicles outside the house, Archibeque appeared through the home’s front door, holding the gun, police said in the edited video.
Archibeque stood at the door for about four minutes before going back into the house. Since the caller had reported that a man was dead inside the home, police began to prepare for a possible “hostage situation” or “victim rescue,” police said in the video.
After about 17 more minutes, police said, Archibeque returned to the front doorway with the gun.
“We just want to help,” one of the officers could be heard saying in footage from the second officer’s body camera as officers have their spotlights and guns fixed toward the Archibeque. “But we need you to drop what’s in your hand.”
Though the police video includes two vantage points from separate officers’ body cameras, neither provide a clear picture of Archibeque standing at the doorway.
After other officers on scene call out that she’s holding a rifle and is pointing it at the first two officers, the pair begin to shoot toward the doorway. Five shots could be heard in the video.
Police said Archibeque fell forward. Paramedics tried to revive her but she died at the scene. Coroner’s officials declared her cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.
Police said they recovered what appeared to be a rifle, though Chavarria said analysts have yet to determine whether it is a firearm or replica.
Long Beach police has a Mental Evaluation Team, but Chavarria did not know whether the unit had been called to the incident. She added the team typically only answers calls between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
About 10% to 29% of fatal police shootings are from “suicide by cop,” a situation where a person wants to die at the hands of police, according to a Police Executive Research Forum Suicide by Cop training guide, which cites a 2016 study on the phenomenon.
The guide lists pointing a gun or replica at officers or calling out with wishes to die or be shot as signs of “suicide by cop.”
Among its guidance for police, the report suggests that pointing a firearm at a potentially suicidal person may make it nearly impossible to communicate with them.
“If an officer says, ‘I’m here to help you,” pointing a firearm at the suicidal person is a conflicting message. “And people will always believe the nonverbal message,” said police psychologist John Nicoletti in the report.
However the guide does say that if the person is armed, the incident should be handled like other situations where a subject is holding a firearm.