4:00 PM EST, December 14, 2010
35-year-old Douglas Zerby was shot dead by two cops who thought he had a gun. In fact it was just a garden hose nozzle.
Police were responding to a 911 call from someone who reported seeing a man with a handgun.
911 Operator: "Long Beach 911, what is the problem?"
Caller: "There's a guy in my backyard just sitting on the porch and he's got a gun in his hand."
911 Operator: "Do you actually see a gun?"
Caller: "Yes I do. It looks like a little tiny six shooter or something like that."
There are still bullet holes and blood stains on the porch where the shooting happened. Police say Zerby was sitting down toying with and aiming a garden hose nozzle, which police believed was a gun. The officers took cover about ten yards away. They say he aimed with both hands as if to open fire, and they shot him without warning.
"Unfortunately the actions of the subject precluded that from happening and it was a life or death situation very quickly," said Chief Jim McDonald.
Family members say the victim may have been drinking, but the tragedy could have been easily avoided.
"They didn't shoot him two times, they didn't shoot him three times, they shot him six times in the chest and then twice with a shotgun," says Zerby's outraged sister, Eden Marie Biele.
Zerby's emotional family members confronted the police chief at a press conference.
"I understand your frustration," said Chief McDonald.
"The officers should get some glasses if they can't see that's a water nozzle," shouted a family member.
"He's a father. He has an 8-year-old son. He at least deserved to be told, 'Put your hands where we can see them! Place the object down,' " Biele said tearfully.
"The family is distraught obviously," said McDonald.
The interruptions continued until the police chief left the podium.
"A human life was lost here. An innocent man, not a robber, not a thief, he was minding his own business sitting on his good friend's stoop," says Biele.