Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:59 PM on 14th December 2010
- Family consider legal action after department chief makes sensational confession
A father shot dead by two police officers had pointed a pistol-style garden hose at them and not a gun, the department chief admitted yesterday.
The uniformed officers were responding to an emergency call about a man wielding a gun in the garden of a property in Long Beach, California.
They opened fire on him when he pointed the black metal-tipped object at them in a two-handed posture, Long Island Police Chief Jim McDonnell said in an emotional news conference marked by sobs from the victim's relatives.
Douglas Zerby, 35, was pronounced dead at the scene on Sunday afternoon.
Victim: Douglas Zerby was shot dead by two police officers in Long Beach, California, on Sunday. The department chief has admitted the black pistol-grip garden hose nozzle he was holding was mistaken for a gun
'This is a very unfortunate set of circumstances and leaves the family to deal with it here,' Chief McDonnell said, offering his condolences to the Zerby family.
The officers were dispatched to an apartment building at 4.40pm after two people reported a man with a gun sitting on a backyard porch landing, he said.
In an excerpt of one 911 emergency phone call played for reporters, a male caller said the suspect appeared to have a 'tiny six-shooter'.
Chief McDonnell said the officers took positions to observe Mr Zerby, who appeared intoxicated. They believed he had a gun as described by the callers, but focused on setting up containment of the area rather than contacting him, he said.
The officers requested other officers, a helicopter, a police dogs team and a mental evaluation team, the chief said.
As those units were responding, the
man pointed the object at apartments and played with it, causing it to
make sounds similar to those of a gun being handled, he said.
Distraught: Relatives break down when they learn Mr Zerby was shot dead with both a shotgun and a handgun
'As the subject was in a seated position, he used a two-handed pistol-grip hold on an object with his arms fully extended,' Chief McDonnell said.
'Somebody that is impaired and waving what appears to witnesses and police to be a handgun. That's what the officers were faced with.'
When Mr Zerby pointed it at one of the officers, both policemen fired their weapons, a handgun and a shotgun.
The dead man's sister denounced the shooting and said legal action was being considered.
Eden Marie Biele said: 'He never knew
there was a problem. Police snuck down the corridor and shot him.
'He was killed in cold blood. He was a drunk sitting on a stoop fumbling with a hose nozzle'.
She accused the police of not making verbal or visual contact with Mr Zerby.
Ms Biele said: 'They didn't say "Put your hands up" or "Freeze" or anything.'
Anger: Another relative accuses the police of excessive use of force in the shooting
She said police made the family wait seven hours before confirming that Mr Zerby was the man who had been killed. The family had reason to believe it was her brother because the shooting took place at the home of his best friend, she said.
Ms Biele said her brother had been drinking and rather than drive home, went to his friend's place and was waiting on the stairs for him to come home.
The family is now making plans to cremate Mr Zerby, who had an eight-year-old son, and will have a ceremony at the beach.
Ms Biele said she did not doubt the
sincerity of the chief's condolences, 'but the Long Beach Police
Department is concerned with one thing only and that is covering up
'It's why they didn't release a
statement all morning and why it took so long to notify us.'
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, a standard move after a police shooting.
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