LOS ANGELES—David Perdue was on his way to sneak in some surfing before work Thursday morning when police flagged him down. They asked who he was and where he was headed, then sent him on his way.
Seconds later, Perdue’s attorney said, a Torrance police cruiser slammed into his pickup and officers opened fire; none of the bullets struck Perdue.
His pickup, police later explained, matched the description of the one belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner — the ex-cop who has evaded authorities after allegedly killing three and wounding two more. But the pickups were different makes and colors. And Perdue looks nothing like Dorner: He’s several inches shorter and about a hundred pounds lighter. And Perdue is white; Dorner is black.
“I don’t want to use the word buffoonery but it really is unbridled police lawlessness,” said Robert Sheahen, Perdue’s attorney. “These people need training and they need restraint.”
The incident involving Perdue was the second time police looking for the fugitive former LAPD officer opened fire on someone else. The shootings have raised concerns that the fear Dorner has instilled has added another layer of danger.
“Nobody trains police officers to look for one of their own,” said Maria Haberfeld, a police training professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes and I don’t think anybody else would.”
Torrance police said the officers who slammed into Perdue were responding to shots fired moments earlier in a nearby area where LAPD officers were standing guard outside the home of someone targeted in an online manifesto that authorities have attributed to Dorner.
In the first incident, LAPD officers opened fire on another pickup they feared was being driven by Dorner. The mother and daughter inside the truck were delivering Los Angeles Times newspapers. The older woman was shot twice in the back and the other was wounded by broken glass.
In Perdue’s case, his attorney said he wasn’t struck by bullets or glass but was injured in the car wreck, suffering a concussion and an injury to his shoulder. The Los Angeles International Airport baggage handler hasn’t been able to work since, and his car is totaled, Sheahen said.
“When Torrance issues this ridiculous statement saying he wasn’t injured, all they mean is he wasn’t killed,” his attorney said, referring to a press release reporting “no visible injuries” to Perdue.
A department spokesman said Saturday that the shooting is still under investigation. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the department said: “The circumstances of the incident known to the responding officers would have led a reasonable officer under normal circumstances — and these were far from normal circumstances — to believe that fellow officers were being shot at and that the vehicle traveling toward them posed a serious risk.
“In the split seconds available to them,” the statement continued, “action was appropriate to intervene and stop the actions of the driver of that vehicle.”
According to the police department, Perdue’s car was headed directly for one of their patrol vehicles and appeared not to be yielding. When the vehicles collided, Perdue’s air bag went off, blocking the view of the driver, and one officer fired three rounds.
The Torrance police chief apologized to Perdue and offered him a rental car and payment for his medical expenses, the statement said.
The search for the ex-LAPD officer has spanned the region, with authorities hoping they’d tracked Dorner down in Big Bear only for the trail to go cold there. His alleged campaign to take revenge on those he blamed for his dismissal from the LAPD has stoked fears among local police, many of whom are involved in the search. The sense of chaos has been amplified by police around the state and beyond being forced to chase down bogus leads and erroneous sightings.
Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney, said it’s not surprising when police make mistakes during manhunts.
“They don’t know where he is, and they’re going to be edgy and jumpy,” she said. “Don’t get in their way. They’re in a special state of consciousness right now, and they’re not used to being hunted.”
Perdue’s attorneys said their client was shot at without warning.
“As you know, officers of the Torrance Police Department attempted to kill Mr. Perdue” Thursday, the attorneys wrote in a letter to the agency’s chief.