An Anaheim police officer chasing burglary suspects shot and killed an innocent 20-year-old man who heard a commotion and emerged from his house early Tuesday holding what authorities said was either a broomstick or a shower rod.
The officer encountered Julian Alexander on his front lawn and shot him twice in the chest about 1:30 a.m.
"This is a very tragic situation," Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said at a news conference. "Julian Alexander was innocent of anything that was going on in the neighborhood at that time."
Paramedics treated Alexander at the scene in the 300 block of North Muller Street before taking him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Alexander's wife and mother-in-law said he went outside, believing that he heard possible intruders. The women heard two gunshots and tried to run outside but were stopped by an officer. From their window, they saw Alexander on the ground, handcuffed and bleeding.
"He was a good kid, trying to protect his house," said Michelle Mooney, his mother-in-law. "And the police, instead of asking questions, they just shot first. Somebody has to be held responsible for this."
The officer who shot Alexander was not identified and was placed on leave. The shooting is being investigated by the Anaheim Police Department's office of independent review and the Orange County district attorney's office.
Relatives said police refused to let them see Alexander at UCI Medical Center. Twenty-five family members met with Chief Welter throughout the day.
The shooting "hit my family like a ton of bricks," said Henry Parks, a cousin of Alexander's wife. "I understand there has to be an investigation. But it was apparent very early that Julian was innocent, and I would have expected the family would have been treated with gentler hands."
Alexander was married last week, and his wife, Renee, 19, is expecting a baby girl in December, his family said.
He was a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Riverside, where he played football, and as a student worked in the commissary at March Air Reserve Base.
Alexander also volunteered as an usher and did charity work at his church, Willie Holmes Ministries in Fullerton, where his wife also is a volunteer.
Family and friends gathered to remember Alexander on the back patio of his home. In front, they placed a board with pictures of him and his wife while balloons and flowers marked the spot where he was shot. Most of the photos showed the tall, stocky man embracing his wife and smiling or making funny faces with her.
"Julian, he's very caring and protective," said his father, Jerry Alexander, who drove to Anaheim from San Luis Obispo when he heard the news. "That's what he was doing. He was protecting his family."