July 17, 1961 – October 28, 2000
I was watching an episode of ER when my eyes and ears perked up, as they do, when an episode is dedicated in memoriam. I tapped away on my computer and was reminded of Anthony Dwain Lee’s story. I vaguely recalled the real-life incident about a guy who was dressed as a cop at a Halloween party, being shot by a cop. It’s so much more than that.
On Saturday, October 27, 2000, a Halloween party was held in Benedict Canyon. The event was hosted by five men, who were renting a three-story home known locally as “The Castle”.
The street is called Yoakum Drive, a typically narrow canyon street. There was a shuttle provided to the attendees, so that neighbors didn’t have to endure the annoying cars as much as the annoying people.
The victim, Anthony Dwain Lee, was an actor who lived in an apartment complex in Van Nuys. According to Wikipedia, Lee was a former drug-dealing gang member (C r i p s) turned Buddhist.
Earlier that evening Anthony Dwain Lee slipped into his blue boxers and blue socks. He donned khaki trousers and a dark blue T-shirt. On top of that he wore a black vest and a black hoodie. On top of that he wore a red devil mask. He strapped on a pair of black lace-up boots, and put black gloves in his vest pocket. In his pocket he carried keys, a black bandana, a jar of Blistex and a pack of Sherman Cigarettes with a spliff in the box.
Product placement is everything.
Oh, I forgot to mention he left his place with a perfect replica of a .357 Magnum.
Numerous neighbors near The Castle called the police to report excessive noise and people gathering in the street in front of the house, possibly using drugs. Two police officers arrive, Officer Tarriel Hopper and Officer Natalie Humphreys.
The officers asked a security guard where the owner of the house was. The guard shrugged, pointed up the driveway toward the house and said, “He’s around somewhere.” The officers entered the home and asked many of the partygoers where the owners were. No one was interested in, or willing to, assist them in locating those responsible for the gathering. LA assholes. The officers made their way through the home and onto the back pool area.
Earlier in the evening, Anthony Dwain Lee was flaunting the phony .357 he was carrying by pulling it on one of the hosts. Hilarity ensued.
Officer Hopper noticed someone peering into the northwest bedroom window, so he ponied on up to have a looksee as well. Officer Hopper saw three men in the dimly lit room engaged in what looked like a drug deal. Officer Hopper shined a fleshlight (hr!) into the room and the three men inside freaked. Anthony Dwain Lee (who was drinking and hopped up on coke) turned towards officer who was looking through the French doors.
Officer Hopper recalled that the 6′ 4″ Lee, “turns and looks toward the glass door where I’m positioned… he looks directly at me and we make eye contact. Almost simultaneously, upon making eye contact, he reached for his waistband with his right hand.. and removed a blue steel semi-automatic handgun at which point, fearing for my life, I drew my weapon from my holster and, after he removed the gun he pointed the weapon, his gun, right at me and fearful for my safety and my life I fired my weapon, my service weapon. During this entire time, it happened very, very quickly, his gun was continually pointing at me, I fired my weapon, continually assessing the situation, and it was very, very rapid and I fired and he never dropped the weapon, he never made any attempt to drop the weapon or anything.”
Lee landed on the floor on his right side, eyes still open. He was dead. One of the guys with him said, “This a joke? This is a joke right?”
He was 39 years old.
Officer Hopper tried radioing for help but got no signal. He tried his cell phone, no signal. He asked if anyone at the party knew of a landline, and someone escorted them to a fax machine with a handset and called for support and paramedics.
In the meantime, partygoers were crowding around and in the bedroom. I was about to type “LA assholes” again, but I realized I would have been there too. I guess that makes me an LA asshole. The officers were finally able to clear the crime scene and corral the people into another room.
Officer Hopper shot nine rounds at Lee, but Lee was only hit four times. Lee was shot in the back of the head, upper left back, right mid back and right upper back. It is a tragedy that five bullets were wasted in the wall behind Lee. Feel the need to carry a semi-automatic weapon around, fake or not, you gamble. Lee did and lost.
Note: Lee was shot in the back, leading many people to claim the LAPD overreacted. Others, some considered experts, stated that it’s probable the scenario played out like Officer Hopper claimed.
I wonder how those who doubt the officer’s actions would react if this were suddenly pointed at you.
Would you pause and ask, “Is that a real gun?”
A tab of ecstacy was found in the palm of Lee’s hand.
Johnnie Cochran (Dead. Brain tumor.) represented Lee’s sister in a $100 million lawsuit against the LAPD claiming that Officer Hopper should have expected something like this at a costume party. (Again, dead. Brain tumor.) Since the security guards at the party couldn’t be found, the case was settled for $225,000.
The LAPD did not prosecute Officer Hopper because they believe he acted in reasonable self-defense.
The two men that Lee was talking to when he was killed, sued the LAPD for post-traumatic stress. They also, seriously, claimed that the officer was trespassing. I mean fucking seriously. I hope these assholes need the police some day and the one to show up is Officer Hopper.
Lee was cremated.
Oh yeah. As mailbox shots go, it’s not the best. Suffahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Thanks Craig, Mark Masek and his Troyness.