Police officer shoots and kills actor at Halloween party

LOS ANGELES - A costume party guest fatally shot by a police officer he pointed a fake gun at had told friends he feared getting killed by police.

''His biggest fear was getting killed by cops, because he's a tall black man. He said that before,'' Mary Lin, a friend of the victim's, told the Los Angeles Times.

Anthony Dwain Lee, 39, died at the West Los Angeles mansion where he was shot shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. It wasn't clear if he knew the officer he pointed a gun at was a real policeman, or if he thought he was just another partygoer in a Halloween costume, a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman said.

Lee was an actor who had appeared in small TV and film roles, including on the shows ''ER'' and ''NYPD Blue'' and as the character Fred in the 1997 Jim Carrey movie, ''Liar Liar.''

Police said several hundred people, many of them in costume, were at the Benedict Canyon mansion, known to some as ''the Castle'' for its extravagant design. Officer Tarriel Hopper and his partner went there in response to a noise complaint, and were looking for the mansion's owner as they walked along an outside walkway.

Police reported that the officers looked through a window and saw Lee and two other people in a room. Lee looked up toward Hopper and allegedly pointed a phony gun in his direction, said police Officer Charlotte Broughton.

Hopper responded by firing several rounds from his weapon through the window. Investigators later determined Lee's gun was fake.

''It does not appear that (the officer) did anything wrong,'' Broughton said. ''When somebody has what appears to be an authentic weapon, you respond the way you're trained to respond.''

Hopper, 27, has been with the department three years, while his partner Natalie Humphreys, 25, joined the force two years ago, police said. The shooting is being investigated by the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division and a team from the district attorney's office.

Partygoer Rick Hull told KTLA-TV in Los Angeles that Lee raised his toy gun after an officer shined a flashlight into the room, and that officers did not identify themselves before the shooting.

''I can't explain why the officer would shoot someone at a costume party who might have had a toy gun,'' Lee's younger sister, Tina Vogt, told KTTV-TV in Los Angeles.

''I mean, I don't think they can give me the kind of answers that I need, quite honestly,'' said Vogt, who works in the police chief's office in the Sacramento Police Department.

Lee's friend, Kirsten Blackburn of Glendale, said Lee was a ''man of peace,'' a Buddhist who worked with a youth organization.

''We're devastated, and we're not alone by any means,'' Blackburn said. ''This is so incredibly shocking that a person would be taken down like this.''

Lee was wearing a black sweatshirt, a black vest and tan colored pants, said county coroner's Lt. Dan Aikin.

A friend of 15 years who was not at the party, Mitch Hale, told the Los Angeles Times that Lee usually wore a devil mask costume with a hood and carried a replica gun to Halloween parties as a reminder of his past.

As a youth in Northern California, Lee had followed the gangster life before becoming an actor and eventually moving to Los Angeles, Hale said.

''He was dressed as a devil, not a gangster,'' Hale said. ''How could this happen?''


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