A Los Angeles Halloween party ended in tragedy Sunday morning when actor Anthony Dwain Lee was shot and killed by police
Lee, 39, who appeared in the 1997 movie Liar, Liar and on several television shows, including NYPD Blue, was shot several times by Officer Tarriel Hopper, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement. Hopper said Lee pointed what turned out to be a fake gun at him from inside the Benedict Canyon mansion known as "The Castle."
The police officer and his partner were responding to a noise complaint about the party. They arrived at approximately 1 a.m. and went around back to search for the owner, police said. The police spotted Lee and two other partygoers in a small room. According to the police, Lee then pointed what appeared to be a gun at the officers, and Hopper responded by firing several times, fatally wounding the actor.
Friends of Lee told television station KTLA-5 that some guests at the party were costumed as police, and that the real police never identified themselves as such before opening fire. According to radio station KROQ, Lee was in costume as a devil.
"[Police Officer Hopper] had no way of knowing [the gun] was fake, even though people were in costume. If you feel your life is threatened, you react in the way you were trained," said Officer Charlotte Broughton, a police spokeswoman.
One of Lee's friends told the Los Angeles Times, "He's a black man who died in a white neighborhood. His biggest fear was getting killed by cops, because he's a tall black man."
The police officer, Hopper, who is also black, is a three-year veteran of the LAPD, according to KTLA.
"[Lee] was a Buddhist. He hated violence. It is amazing he died this way," Mitch Hale, a writer whose play Buffalo Soldier starred Lee and earned him a local acting award, told the newspaper. "He was an incredibly gifted actor and person. It's devastating. … Why did they shoot someone at a Halloween party?" The shooting is being investigated by the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division and a team from the district attorney's office.
The crowded party was attended by scores of costumed guests, many of them actors and other entertainment industry professionals, the Los Angeles Times reported. Robert Hull, who was at the party, told the Times, "It was a shock that an officer would shoot at such a party. This was an exclusive party with security. Some of these people are making six figures, and this officer saw a toy gun at a Halloween costume party and opened fire."
Lee's friends said Sunday they were planning to hold a peaceful candlelight vigil in his honor Monday evening at the West L.A. police station.
Reuters contributed to this story.