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SWAT officer killed after L.A. standoff

Image: Los Angeles police officers congregate at a standoff.
Los Angeles police officers gather at a standoff involving a gunman in the Winnetka area of Los Angeles, Calif., on Thursday. The siege later ended with five people dead.Dan Steinberg / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man barricaded himself in a house after telling police he had killed three relatives, then opened fire on a SWAT team Thursday. Five people, including an officer and the gunman, were killed, police said.

The standoff began about 9 p.m. Wednesday night in a house in the San Fernando Valley. Nearly six hours later, police lobbed tear gas into the home and hit it repeatedly with a battering ram. Less than 90 minutes later, the house could be seen on fire.

Two officers were shot inside the home shortly after they arrived, Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell said at a news conference.

McDonnell said police later exchanged gunfire with the suspect again and he went down. After the fire, the suspect was taken into custody and pronounced dead at the scene.

Both officers were taken to Northridge Medical Center, where one of them, Randal Simmons, 51, died just after 1 a.m., McDonnell said. The other, James Veenstra, 51, was undergoing surgery, and was expected to survive, McDonnell said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he had visited with the family of the slain officer. Simmons leaves a wife and two children. Veenstra's wife is a captain on the force.

"This is a very horrible tragedy and our hearts go out to all the members of the LAPD who also are grieving at this time," Villaraigosa said.

Authorities earlier said they were unable to determine whether the man had killed his family members. It was unclear whether the other three deaths were relatives of the gunman.

Tear gas lobbed into home
Police had lobbed tear gas into the home shortly before 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Wind blew the gas back toward some officers, who retreated from the cloud. Police could be seen in footage from a television helicopter using a battering ram to break into the home. At about 7:30 a.m., the house was on fire.

Several blocks of the San Fernando Valley neighborhood were sealed off with yellow crime tape. A police helicopter circled overhead, its searchlight on, during the siege.