Sheriff: Let Marine shooting investigation play self out

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens addressed questions about the shooting of Marine Sgt. Manuel Loggins in an interview

The Orange County Register

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Staff writer Sal Hernandez sat down with Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens on Friday to address lingering questions about the shooting of Marine Sgt. Manuel Loggins in the San Clemente High School parking lot.

Among those questions: Why did the Sheriff's Department restrict the release of information in the hours after the shooting, and why did accounts of the shooting change over the following days?

Hutchens would not address specifics of the shooting because of the investigation.

Sheriff's officials, for example, have refused to explain why the children were not removed from the SUV during the two- to five-minute window when Loggins was away from the vehicle. They have not explained why a less-lethal use of force - a stun gun or physical restraint - was not used. And what caused the deputy to shoot into the vehicle while the children were inside?

The shooting is being investigated by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

In her interview, however, Hutchens addressed general aspects of the shooting:

Why did the Sheriff's Department release only sketchy information during the 24 hours after the shooting? And, why did it withhold notification that Loggins had died a few hours after the shooting?

Following the shooting in the parking lot of San Clemente High at 4:41 a.m., sheriff's officials quickly reported there had been a deputy-involved shooting and that a man had been wounded. After those initial reports, however, sheriff's officials would not verify additional details. Loggins' death was not announced until the following day.

"This shouldn't have gotten, in my opinion, bogged down for so long, particularly with the death not being reported," Hutchens said. "I do want to get out what we can as long as we don't jeopardize the investigation."

Hutchens says she has been briefed about the virtual news blackout. Before releasing information, officials check with investigators to make sure details that become public do not interfere with the active investigation.

Why have there been discrepancies in the accounts of the shooting? At first the department reported that the deputy involved feared for his safety. Then it was reported that he feared for the safety of the two girls in the backseat of the Yukon?

"In a lot of incidents, when you get the initial information ... it isn't 100 percent right," Hutchens says. "It takes a while to sort it out."

Confusion at the scene can sometimes lead to conflicting information, she says. "The actual investigation is what determines what occurred and the evidence that is found at the scene."

As to details of the shooting, Hutchens says, she can't comment: "We would all like more answers, quickly, but it just takes time and I think it's important that the investigation is thorough and complete and certainly independent."

What was your reaction to the statement made by Camp Pendleton's commanding officer?

"Anytime when someone's life has been taken, it's a tragedy," Hutchens says. "I believe the colonel said he is confident in the investigation."

On Thursday, Colonel Nicholas Marano criticized the release of investigative information connected to the shooting. The statement came days after the deputies' union released details of the killing and justified the actions of the deputy.

Since the shooting, the Sheriff's Department has maintained positive relations with the Pendleton officers, she says.

Copyright 2012 Orange County Register

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