LBPD releases new details on recent police shootings under new transparency law

A gunman killed in a hostage situation at a Holiday Inn. An aspiring policewoman shot by officers after she fired shots at her boyfriend.

These are two of the fatal officer-involved shooting cases in which the Long Beach Police Department has released more details under a new police transparency law called SB 1421.

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, drastically rolled back some of California’s strict privacy rules for police officers. Departments must now publicly disclose records relating to dishonesty, sexual assault and serious uses of force like police shootings.

To comply with the law, the Long Beach Police Department this year hired more staff to handle a flood of public records requests and set up a website to provide details of officer-involved shootings, sustained incidents of sexual assaults and use of force cases as the information becomes available.

The department recently provided more details on two fatal cases from 2017 and 2018:

Andy Vo Lee

On Jan. 5, 2018, officers responded to the Holiday Inn on Lakewood Boulevard for reports of a man with a gun who was holding two employees hostage in the lobby.

There they found Andy Vo Le, 35, of Irvine standing in front of the main counter, pointing a handgun at an employee’s midsection area as he grabbed the man by his neck and attempted to use him as a human shield, according to the police documents.

Officers at first kept their distance in an attempt to descale the situation, but they began moving closer to Le as he tried to drag the victim away.

In a statement, Officer Justin Krueger, a 15-year veteran with the department who was staged with an AR-15, said he had to act fast to save the hostage. Krueger said he fired three to five shots.

“I believed the suspect was going to take the victim further down the hall to an area of better cover, or a better position of advantage and then shoot him,” Krueger recalled. “The immediate threat to the victim’s life if the suspect was able to obtain this better position was too great.”

Le was shot multiple times. According to police documents, family members said Le, who was not a guest at the hotel that night, had suffered from heavy drug use for many years and was depressed over recently losing custody of his children.

Le earlier that day had showed up at the Westminster Police Department displaying signs of paranoia and claiming “TV and other devices had been bugged,” according to documents.

Methamphetamine was later found in his system.

Michele Rice

Michele Rice, 33, had applied to become a Long Beach police recruit and was weeks away from taking her psychological evaluations when she was shot by five police officers on June 8, 2017 outside her home on Studebaker Road.

According to police documents, Rice had been arguing with her live-in boyfriend, a California Highway Patrol officer, that night and had allegedly fired shots at him. The boyfriend called police and said Rice had been drinking and made statements that she wanted to kill him.

Rice was potentially suicidal and had a “fascination with police” and wanted to become a police officer, according to documents.

Officers made contact with her as she stood on her front porch.

According to a statement from one of the officers, Eduardo Reinhold, Rice initially complied by putting her hands up, but she then reached into her right front coat pocket and pulled out a black handgun.

“I told the suspect to get her hands out of her coat and to ‘please don’t do this,'” Reinhold recalled.

Reinhold said he immediately feared for his own safety and that of his fellow officer nearby and passing cars.

“The suspect began to raise the gun and I believed that she intended to use it to harm us,” he said.

Rice was shot multiple times and died at the scene. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in April concluded that the officers used reasonable force.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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