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Loggins Shooting Was Avoidable, Police Experts Say

Outside analysts cite procedural mistakes by deputies, but say the killing of Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins could still be deemed justified.

Sheriff's deputies made several tactical blunders when they encountered Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins in a shadowy school parking lot on Feb. 7, but shooting him may still have been justified, according to police procedure experts interviewed by Patch.

The analysis might displease both sides of the controversial case, which is still under investigation and has fueled between Camp Pendleton brass and the deputies union.

On the one hand, police experts defended as he tried to drive away. But they also said it never should have gotten to that point.

Could bloodshed have been avoided?

"Definitely," said Michael Levine, a retired DEA agent who now works as a trial consultant, expert witness and police instructor.

In particular, Levine and two other police veterans faulted the actions taken by deputies after Loggins stepped out of his GMC Yukon and reportedly walked off into the darkness, leaving his two young daughters in the SUV's back seat.

The deputies should have immediately removed the children from the vehicle, blocked the Yukon with police cruisers, and stopped Loggins from getting back behind the wheel, which is when Sandberg opened fire, the analysts said.

Levine and the other experts cautioned that their opinions were tentative and based solely on public accounts of what happened. Nevertheless, their analysis offers a counterpoint to the deputies union, which , saying he "created a situation that put his children in danger and ultimately cost him his life."

Procedural Failures

According to , the trouble began when Loggins zoomed into the San Clemente High School parking lot around 4:40 a.m., crashing through a low metal gate that separated the lot from campus athletic fields. After Sandberg pulled up behind the Yukon, Loggins got out and walked away, allegedly ignoring the deputy's commands and making "irrational" statements.

started to follow, then heard screams from the Yukon. Inside, he found two of the Marine's daughters, ages 9 and 14. They said their father had been acting oddly, Sandberg later told investigators.

Backup units arrived in a flash. Then, as deputies talked to the girls, Loggins suddenly returned from the football field. Guns drawn, the deputies ordered him to stay away from the Yukon.

Instead, the 31-year-old Marine allegedly ignored them and climbed back into the driver's seat. After he turned the ignition and put the Yukon in gear, Sandberg fired through the side window, killing him. Sandberg said he acted to protect the girls from possible harm.

Deputy mistake No. 1, the experts said, was leaving the girls in the Yukon.

"Get those kids out of the car, protect the innocent, that's the most basic of police and law enforcement training," Levine said.

William T. Gaut, a former homicide detective and criminal justice instructor in Alabama who also now works as an expert witness and consultant, agreed.

"Under ideal circumstances, the children should have been removed to a secondary position of safety outside the wrecked vehicle," Gaut said.

Mistake No. 2, he added, was letting Loggins return to the Yukon. "The officers should not have allowed the suspect to reach his vehicle," Gaut said.

Dave Cohen, who retired after 20 years as spokesman for the San Diego Police Department, leveled a similar criticism.

"If additional deputies were there, and he [Loggins] was off in the darkness ranting and raving, how did they allow him to get back to the car?” Cohen said in a TV news interview with NBC San Diego. “Did they not have less lethal weapons -- a beanbag shotgun, Taser, K-9s?"

Another possible error: failing to make it impossible for Loggins to drive away, either by removing the keys from his vehicle after he walked off (although it's unclear if Loggins took the keys with him), or by using patrol cars to hem in the Yukon.

The spot where Loggins parked was a campus roadway about 20 to 30 feet wide, bordered by a chain-link fence on one side and the school gymnasium on the other. Straight ahead or turning left, the roadway led deeper into the campus, offering no easy vehicle exit. (To see an aerial view of the campus, click here).

Police "are trained to use their vehicles to block in a suspect," Levine said. "Did anyone get their cruiser up against his bumper?"

In comments posted on various online news stories about the case, some readers have asked why deputies didn't shoot out the Yukon's tires.

That technique is mostly a Hollywood invention, experts said. In reality, it's potentially dangerous. For starters, the steel belts embedded in car tires can cause bullets to bounce off, Gaut noted. And even if a bullet does penetrate, the tire does not immediately go flat. Or the damaged tire might render the vehicle uncontrollable, he said.

Hollywood myths aside, Levine and Gaut said published accounts present too many unknowns to make a definitive conclusion on whether deputies did or didn't follow proper procedure. As an expert witness, Levine added, he typically has access to autopsy reports and photos, complete sworn statements from all the officers and often video. But that's not the case here, as the shooting remains under investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's office, with assistance from NCIS.

Prosecution?

Despite apparent mistakes leading up to the shooting, Gaut and Levine predicted Deputy Sandberg may not face criminal charges.

"Yes, there were some tactical errors by the officers," Gaut said by email. "[But] in the 'heat of the moment' it is difficult to make ALL the correct decisions on a timely basis. ... Remember, as the courts have ruled, we should not judge an officer's actions on the basis of 20/20 hindsight. The standard of judgment is ... what would another reasonable officer have done under the same or similar circumstances."

Gaut said police are allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect if the person has committed a violent felony and also poses an immediate danger to an officer or the public.

Sandberg's defenders could argue that litmus test was met, Gaut said, based on the version of events released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the deputies' union. According to that narrative, Loggins rammed through a gate with his two young daughters in tow and not wearing seatbelts (although investigators haven't explained how they know the belts were unbuckled during the drive vs. after the vehicle parked).

"One could argue that this suspect committed a violent felony [hit-and-run and endangering children] and that he posed an immediate danger," Gaut said. "The evidence seems to indicate that the suspect had already driven erratically and dangerously, [and] intentionally wrecked his vehicle with unrestrained children in the back seat. A reasonable officer would likely conclude that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would continue the same behavior, thereby endangering himself, the children, other officers and the innocent public."

Levine concurred.

"At the point he gets back in his car, he becomes a danger," Levine said. "This is a crazy world, people kill their kids all the time. That's what the officer is presented with."

Retired San Diego police spokesman Cohen also tentatively sided with the deputy.

"It's a sad situation, but at this stage, until we know more, I do not fault the deputies for taking the action once he [Loggins] was in the car and driving away," he told NBC San Diego.

But friends and colleagues of Loggins, who was universally described as , remain outraged and baffled by official accounts of what happened.

Yana Pollard, a former co-worker who is planning a candlelight vigil to memorialize Loggins, said the unhinged, uncooperative suspect described by deputies "is not the Manny I know."

Lindsey Hanson February 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Teddi you are a fool to blindly trust the police. They too are human and make mistakes. This article says just that. They made a mistake.
Crystal Seaver February 24, 2012 at 06:41 PM
This mans character has been spoken of in such a positive light. Has anyone considered that something medical could have been going on with him to make him behave in a strange manner? As far as the "in the heat of the moment" comment goes, they train for these things, it is their job to know what to do in the heat of the moment. Those officers should lose their jobs and be prosecuted for the insane amount of mistakes that they made as well as the excessive force they used. Praying for the family.
Mr Salty February 24, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Really? Do you have any idea how many black men have been killed and or imprisoned "accidently" by the police of this country? Wake Up Ofay.
peoplewatcher February 24, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Lindsey, I am with you that is what sounds like, and seems like LE supporters are ok with that. Scary concept that it might be OK
Lindsey Hanson February 24, 2012 at 08:14 PM
I will not believe a word until I see the dash cam. PERIOD! You got nothing to hide OCSD??? Then bring it on. Any suppression of evidence is an admission to guilt.
Dan Mathews February 24, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Let's say they didn't have a beanbag gun, taser gun, canines, and didn't have the Yukon blocked in as they are trained to do. If multiple deputies had guns drawn as he approached the vehicle, why didn't one yell out loud to the others so the Marine could hear it, "OK, I'm shooting his right leg, someone else shoot his left"? That puts it on the Marine. If he doesn't freeze, take his legs out.
Joker Joe February 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Mr. Salty How many?
Adam Townsend February 24, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Just a heads up, we changed that sentence because it was not entirely accurate. There is a circuitous route that allows maintence and delivery vehicles access to campus. If Loggins knew the campus well, he may have been able to navigate this route. It is unclear if any other section of the route was gated however. We changed the sentence to read: "Straight ahead or turning left, the roadway led deeper into the campus, offering no easy vehicle exit."
Chuck Lindsly February 24, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I'm afraid to leave anything derogatory about OCSD. I could be murdered going to the library !!
Debbie Flanagan February 25, 2012 at 12:51 AM
The dash cam would be very helpful in this situation. I am in agreement that the children should have been removed from the vehicle and placed in one of the deputies cars. The OCSD is also guilty of endangering the lives of the children. Removing the keys from the vehicle if they were in the ignition or blocking the vehicle with the deputies cars would have prevented the fatal shooting. The deputy who did this has to deal with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life. Based on Sgt. Loggins actions I believe he was experiencing PTSD or an anxiety attack. My heart goes out to his daughters who had to witness their Dad being shoot to death. I think the OCSD should pay for their therapy to help them deal with and hopefully recover from this horrific event that occurred.
Harrold MacMurray February 25, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Sandberg is a killer. He wanted to kill and he did. His actions are that of a killer. The result of Sandbergs actions are -a widow and the destruction of a family. I rate Sandberg a zero as a law enforcement officer and less than zero as a marine.
Iraq vet February 25, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Wow those poor kids, having there dad's shooting as the last thing they remember of him. So sad that a cop had to react this way.
George February 25, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Thou shall not kill.
David Knowles February 25, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Dude, Become a cop and deal with the everyday situations they deal with and THEN, And Only Then, you should have the right to post your Racist opinion. Had it turned out that he abducted those girls, most everyone would be happy about the outcome. The cops don't know that info at the moment. So it's easy for everyone to sit back and criticize. It sounds like Loggins was having a bad day, his anger got the best of him, and it set off a chain of unfortunate events.
David Knowles February 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM
How much time passed from the time he got out of the car until he came back? If there was that info I missed it. Now figure if you could (or would in that situation) do everything that is so easy to think of after the fact....
Vincent Rodriguez February 25, 2012 at 03:03 PM
@Dan That is Hollywood. In Hollywood, every cop or military person is an absolute crack shot that could take the wings off a fly at 30 paces. In real life, that is not true. There are many, many conditions (temperature, sleep, food, etc...) that affect shooting ability. Police, as far as I understand it, are trained to hit the largest target, normally center mass. Also, the primary purpose of a weapon is to destroy. I am a former veteran and currently work armed security on a military base. We train and train and train to be able to deal with emergency situations quickly and professionally, adrenilin or not. We are admonished always, "Do not draw your weapon unless you are ready to kill or destroy what is in front of you." If someone has acted in a fashion that causes me to believe my life or the life of another is in danger and I draw my weapon, it will not be to wound. On that note, we also have a use of force chart. Ours is set 0 to 10. 0 being no threat/no force to 10 being deadly threat/deadly force. Almost any situation can escalate to 10 instantaneously and there are no other options. We are also trained to de-escalate a situation and to use only the amount of force necessary to gain control of the situation. We also carry less lethal options, for example, I carry civilian grade pepper spray. Knowing that LEO's carry tasers (though I do not know if that is a requirement) I am confused as to why they did not deploy the less than lethal options.
philip e. patrick February 25, 2012 at 03:47 PM
This just so stinks. The firs version, "he feared for his life", then, "he feared for the children's life" but blasts three rounds into the moving vehicle. Oh yeah that was safe for the children, bullets tend to fragment and can careen in all directions. This officer absolutely responded like someone who just woke up from a bad nap. So many bad judgement decisions it is unbelievable this guy made it through the academy.
brian c February 25, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Unless your a cop don't judge man eff that cops who make mistakes should have to pay for it I'm in the army and if we make a mistake and kill a unarmed person we go to jail but naw if a cop kills a unarmed AMERICAN and a MARINE its cool it was the heat of the moment go look and see how many soldiers r in jail BC they thought they where in danger I think they have a lil more stressful job so yes cops are nothing but ill trained people with guns who don't have to worry bout ROE on our own people
Justin Woods February 25, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Sandberg at first claims he acted in fear but that was later modified to protect the girls. Since he fired his weapon, at night, into a vehicle the girls were in the union or chief will need to clean that up some more. A overwhelming percentage of police in this country are becoming overbearing and arrogant exhibiting malevolent antisocial behavior. They act like scared little girls and murder citizens with impunity. Then their unions protect their murderous ways with statements modified after the union rep or chief's review. They have little value of a person's life either before they kill them and none afterwards. At least they did not become commercial airline pilots. With nobody to shoot they would freeze with fear when faced with an engine out or in flight fire. Unfortunately a growing proportion of police do not have a clue what it takes to deal professionally with an impending disaster and keeping everyone alive. Aviation does not protect their own with the unskilled weeded out and blackballed. Imagine the pilots union always backing up a marginal pilots error to take off with ice on the wings, spin in on approach or to run out of fuel. Or an airline not disclosing that a critical part that failed was improperly inspected by a marginal mechanic. The public would not stand for that so why put up with marginal police officers. The unions are too powerful!!! Law enforcement will wait to see the light when only after they are killing each other at a higher rate.
Dave Fenner February 26, 2012 at 08:04 PM
yeah, good racist comment. too bad.
Scott Kimball February 26, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Cops over-react to everything these days. They scare ME...and I'm WHITE!
Connie Miller February 27, 2012 at 01:14 AM
David, my reading is that the whole incident took place within about 5 minutes. Total. From the time the Deputy followed Loggins onto the high school campus to the time Loggins returned from his recon of the track and was shot.
peoplewatcher February 27, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Justin, You are perfectly correct, it is not such much the error which is always a part of the human equation but the denial of such error that is unforgivable. The path to returning trust and confidence in law enforcement rests in there ability to acknowledge and own up to there mistakes. Unfortunately the OCSD and many other LE agencies has decided that it is a better strategy to Deny,deny, deny then blame the victim than it is to acknowledge that adrenaline/fear/confusion got the best of them. We would have better performing LE and more respect for those on the job if they were able to acknowledge there mistakes. A question for all of us "what is the first step toward correcting ____________ problem" answer admitting there is a problem. I for one do not think that LE has a right to demand support from the public without transparency and honesty from LE themselves. We are in this together step up LE. If you are good then stand with the good don't defend the bad because they wear the same uniform.
Whophantom February 27, 2012 at 07:16 PM
"what would another reasonable officer have done under the same or similar circumstances". Not kill him, that's for sure. If four to five deputies are @ the scene & they can't control an unarmed man, they shouldn't be Deputies,
Edgar March 01, 2012 at 06:38 AM
First off you presuppose the cop was intelligent , that is the first oversight, second was to provide him a gun, third was to give him ammunition, 4th. was to let him out on the street. When are we going to get up off our butts and start demanding a change in the system. It is all to obvious that the existing organizations are broken. The American police have been brainwashed by the Homeland Security that we are all suspected of being a terrorist , given a paramilitary sense of defense, supplied fully automatic weapons, battle gear, why aren’t we supplying the so called “ Protect and Serve “ police a good psychological testing to see if they are capable of making life and death decisions on the very people they are to serve and protect. Most of the so called police today believe they are given free license to do what they damn well please and have the blue mafia shield them, or take up collections to defend them (Fullerton Situation). We have a flawed and broken system and it won’t get better until we citizens take back our streets and put capable people in uniform that are trustworthy and protect the citizens, not shoot first and ask questions later.
WOW March 09, 2012 at 07:57 PM
shoot 3 times into the suv with the kids in there, real safe. Now they have to live the rest of there lives haunted by there dads murder in front of them and no dad. way to save the girls PD
Tony Johnson April 05, 2012 at 05:19 PM
First of all there have been a string of police shooting unarmed black suspects and this is the second in Los Angeles aside from the Kendrick McDade incident. from the number of unarmed blacks killed by police, more then a reasonable conclusion can be drawn about police brutality against unarmed blacks. Secondly the police are killing the suspects before investigating the situation. What if he had a chemical imbalance? Should one be killed for having a medical problem? We'll never know because police killed him before the entire situation could be investigated. I agree that the police and the county should be sued.
Hoppy760 September 30, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Cops are trained to shoot and kill--not to maim or to stop a vehicle from moving. DA won't release dash cam footage to public. Why? I don't get why some of you think you have to be a cop to judge what happened. That silly. The cop made some mistakes that resulted in a dead man. But this seems to be OK. There's no mention of what will become of this cop Sandberg. Obviously he needs more training.
John B. Greet September 30, 2012 at 02:53 PM
"Cops are trained to shoot and kill--not to maim or to stop a vehicle from moving." Assuming you meant that cops are trained to shoot *to* kill, this is an utterly false statement that contributes nothing constructive to the dialog. Police training standards are consistent throughout the State and no such standard trains our professional police officers to shoot to kill.
Ginny Peach April 24, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Stories like this make me so scared of police officers. Even with your children present, you are not safe.

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