Advocacy groups: Stabbing shows worth of shelters

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2009 7:07 PM

Police say Flor Medrano did the right thing when her ex-boyfriend threatened her: She went to a police station and reported him. Still, it wasn't enough to save her life.

The 30-year-old mother spent more than five hours at the Wilshire station, where she was counseled about emergency shelters while officers searched for the ex-boyfriend.

She eventually insisted on going back to her apartment late Wednesday night and was escorted by two officers who checked the residence for intruders before waiting outside for 40 minutes to see if the ex-boyfriend showed up.

When they called to say they were leaving, they heard screaming, ran to a window and saw Medrano being stabbed.

One of the horrified officers, 10-year veteran Tony Im, shot through the window and killed the attacker, but it was too late to save Medrano, who died at a hospital, said Lt. Don Brady of the LAPD's Force Investigation Division, which is reviewing the shooting.

Domestic violence groups reeled Friday from accounts of the attacker reaching Medrano while officers monitored her home.

"If batterers are intent on doing harm, they will go to great lengths," said Ben Schirmer, executive director of Rainbow Services, a nonprofit aimed at reducing family violence.

"Victims can hold on to that belief that nothing horrible is going to happen to them, but the reality is this happens all too frequently," he said.

Domestic violence advocacy groups said the attack highlighted the importance of women's shelters and making sure women understand the sites are completely confidential.

"To connect the person with the provider, that can make the key difference between someone feeling they have an option and someone feeling they can't help me," said Colleen Gallopin, policy and technical assistance manager at Break the Cycle, a nonprofit aimed at reducing domestic and dating violence among young people.

Police withheld the name of the suspect, pending notification of next of kin, but did say he was in his early 20s and his relationship with Medrano had lasted less than a year. He was not believed to be the father of her 3-year-old child.

Detective Javier Hernandez said the suspect had prior arrests for domestic violence against other women and had served jail time for the offense.

The LAPD and some observers said officers responded appropriately to the domestic violence complaint from Medrano.

She went to the police station about 5 p.m. Wednesday and filed a report detailing threatening text messages. A week earlier, she had told officers her estranged boyfriend smashed her car windshield.

Officers counseled Medrano and searched for the man, but Medrano said she wanted to return to the apartment where only she had a key.

Police searched the home then waited outside. They now suspect the attacker entered the apartment by climbing down from the roof and through a bathroom window.

The officers yelled at the man to drop the knife and shot him when he didn't comply, Brady said, explaining the exact sequence of events was still being determined.

"We're talking about nanoseconds," he said. "It's so quick."

Schirmer, of Rainbow Services, said police acted appropriately by spending several hours with Medrano then trying to make sure she was safe in her home.

"They did absolutely everything they could," he said. "They went above and beyond. They had no way of ever anticipating that something like that would ever have happened."