Shooting incident may have been "suicide by cop"


A Malibu man was shot in his home Jan. 16 by sheriff’s deputies responding to a 911 call that the man was trying to commit suicide. Lawrence Jones, an actor and screenwriter, died while being transported by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center.

Two deputies arrived shortly before noon at the house in the Sycamore Park area, looked inside the open door and saw a man in the bathroom covered in blood and holding a knife in his hand, according to Lt. Tom Bradstock, Malibu liaison with the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

The deputies said they repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, then attempted to get him to disarm himself by firing a few beanbag rounds.

The “less-than-lethal” rounds about the size of a person’s thumb, were fired from a shot gun, striking Jones several times, Bradstock said. “It had no effect on him, so they sprayed him with pepper spray,” Bradstock said.

Jones then sat down and laid the knife on the floor next to him. The deputies reported they entered the room and removed the knife; however, they were soon overcome by fumes from the pepper spray and had to retreat.

Jones then rearmed himself with scissors and stated to the deputies, “I hope you still have your guns out. You’re going to need them.” Bradstock said. When the deputies re-entered the bathroom, the man stood up, holding a pair of scissors over his head and advanced toward the deputies. They fired several rounds from their 9 mm Barettas, and Jones collapsed, Bradstock said.

Paramedics had been dispatched by the initial call and were there at the time of the shooting. Jones was transported by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center but died en route, Bradstock said.

The coroner’s initial report was inconclusive as to whether Jones died from his self-inflicted stab wounds or from the deputies’ rounds. The complete autopsy report, which will include results of toxicology tests, could take as long as two weeks to a month.

Friends said that Jones had sought help for psychological problems and may have been taking medication that caused him to behave irrationally. Bradstock said this may have been an incident of what is called “suicide by cop,” when the victim, often after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, threatens officers so they will fire in self-defense.

“One of the things our department requires is that the deputies see the department psychologists. Both are upset; one is very religious and is having trouble dealing with this,” Bradstock said. “My experience is that everyone involved in a shooting is very distraught.”