LOS ANGELES (AP) – A man who called 911 and claimed he killed three relatives opened fire on SWAT officers Thursday as they entered the house where he had barricaded himself. One officer was killed, three others were wounded and the gunman died in a later exchange of gunfire.

A woman who hid inside the suburban house, which erupted in flames during the 11-hour standoff, survived the ordeal. But investigators found four bodies inside the burned home, including the gunman’s, and believed they might find a fifth, Police Chief William Bratton said.

Randal Simmons, 51, was the first SWAT officer killed in the line of duty in the unit’s 41-year-history, officials said.

“This is a very horrible tragedy and our hearts go out to all the members of the LAPD who also are grieving at this time,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said he visited with Simmons’ family.

The standoff began Wednesday night after a SWAT team responded to the 911 call and surrounded the San Fernando Valley house. About three hours later, officers entered the one-story home and got into a gunfight with the suspect, then retreated with their wounded colleagues.

The injured officers were taken to Northridge Medical Center, where Simmons, 51, died just after 1 a.m., Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said. Another officer, 51-year-old James Veenstra, had undergone surgery to remove bullet fragments that struck his jaw and was expected to survive.

Two other SWAT officers received minor fragment wounds in a barrage of gunfire, Bratton said.

During the shootout, officers found three men – two that appeared dead and a third that appeared to be alive. The third man was taken out of the house, but was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities tried to reach the gunman by telephone and by loudspeaker, and family members asked the man to give himself up.

“Unfortunately the suspect had absolutely no contact with us, made no effort to surrender,” Assistant Chief Michael Moore said.

Police eventually lobbed tear gas into the home and hit it repeatedly with a battering ram.

Around that time, a woman ran from the rear of the house and was rescued. Her name and possible relationship to the gunman were not released.

The house eventually caught fire, although authorities said they were not sure if it was caused by a flash-bang device or if the gunman ignited it.

Police did not identify the three men, but Moore said they might have been related to one another or to the family that lived in the house.

“When you look at the amount of shots fired and the threat to this community, we’re very thankful SWAT intervened,” McDonnell said. “It could have been much worse.”

AP-ES-02-07-08 1645EST


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