1. Archive

Police shoot fleeing man

Isiah Irwin Keel didn't know when to quit.

He hounded his ex-girlfriend despite a judge's order to stay away.

When she told him to get lost early Friday morning, he beat her in the street.

The police were called and chased him away, but he ducked the officer and went back to kill Joyce Hightower as he had threatened.

Again the officer chased him off, and again Keel eluded him.

But Keel circled back and climbed in the officer's cruiser left idling near the intersection of 10th Avenue and 34th Street.

Three officers couldn't remove Keel, 24, from the car. Suddenly, the car lurched backward so fast it pinned one of the officers against another cruiser.

All three officers, none of them of them farther than 6 feet away, pulled their guns.

Still, Keel wouldn't surrender. He grabbed for an officer's 9mm handgun.

Immediately, the police fired 11 or 12 shots, hitting Keel five times in the upper body, authorities said.

"If he'd have just stopped, he wouldn't be dead," Hightower, 31, said. "He brought this on himself."

By 1:30 a.m., Keel had become the second suspect in two days to be killed by a police officer whom had been pinned between two cars, a fact officials say is coincidental. Early Wednesday morning, Terrence Alston, 26, was shot once after he trapped an officer who had caught him breaking into cars.

Friday's incident began just after 1 a.m. near 12th Avenue and 32nd Street where Hightower had gone to visit her uncle, she said.

Keel approached her and tried to persuade Hightower, who's known as "Pumpkin," that they should get back together, she said Friday, sitting on her front porch in Robles Park. Keel had left her for another woman earlier in the month, she said, and she did not want to go back to a man who beat her regularly.

On Oct. 2, both Keel and Hightower had been charged with domestic violence battery after a fistfight. Two weeks later, they were each sentenced to six months probation and told not to contact each other.

But Keel, a baker who has been convicted of petty theft, ignored that order Friday.

"He was drinking and smoking crack, and when he's like that he just triggers," Hightower said, snapping her fingers.

"I'm going to kill you tonight," she said he vowed.

On 10th Avenue, he mauled her, she said. Repeatedly, he threw the 4-foot-11, 110-pound woman to the ground as if he was a wrestler, she said.

He choked her and smashed her in the head with a quart bottle of malt liquor. With the broken bottle, he gashed her right cheek, a wound that needed 12 stitches to close, authorities said.

During the beating, Officer Victor Gancedo, a 25-year-old rookie, arrived, police Maj. Ken Taylor said.

Keel ran and Gancedo tried to chase him in the cruiser, Taylor said, but Gancedo lost him.

"When he got back to the scene," Taylor said, "he was beating up on her again. It was obvious he was determined to hurt her."

Gancedo jumped out of the car, leaving it idling.

"He was more concerned with saving her life than turning off the ignition of the car," Taylor said.

Keel ran away again and Gacedo followed on foot, but again Keel disappeared. Gancedo returned to check on Hightower and found Keel in the front seat of his cruiser, Taylor said.

By this time, two other officers, John Parlapiano, 26, and Sgt. Chris Velar, 35, arrived. The officers tried to pull Keel out of the cruiser.

During the struggle, Keel put the car in reverse and it lurched backward, striking Parlapiano with the door and wedging him against another cruiser.

Velar grabbed Gancedo out of the way as the car went by, but Gancedo's knee was clipped.

The car was going so fast the door was bent around to the front and Parlapiano was stuck between the bent door and the side of the other patrol car.

The engine continued to race, pushing the parked patrol car several feet, authorities said.

Parlapiano drew his gun and Keel tried to snatch it away.

That was enough for all three officers to open fire. Bullets riddled the hood and windshield of the cruiser.

None of the three officers, all of whom are on paid leave while the shooting is being investigated, have ever been involved in a shooting before. Initially, it looked as if Parlapiano's leg was broken, but he and Gancedo were treated and then released.