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Gunned-down officer was starting family
Declared brain-dead, he's kept on life support to donate organs
Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Larry Lasater left the Marine Corps to become a police officer because he wanted to settle down and raise a family. He and his wife bought a house in Pacheco and had just decorated the baby's room in a fire truck motif when he was gunned down, two months before his son's expected birth.

Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek declared Lasater, 35, brain-dead Sunday, but he remained on life support pending the donation of his organs Monday night, said Pittsburg Police Chief Aaron Baker, who wore a black band over his badge.

Lasater, who was shot Saturday night while trying to arrest robbery suspects after chasing them into a wooded trail, had discussed donating his organs several months ago with his wife, and family members said eight of his organs would be donated.

"Tonight when he goes through that operation, he will be making his final gift of life," Lasater's mother, Phyllis Loya, said Monday. "We are trying to be strong but these horrific events make it hard to cope."

Loya, an attorney, said her son was patriotic and loved being a police officer. Some of his commitment to the military and the police force might have come from the fact that his father was murdered when he was just 3, she said.

"It is so sad my son was deprived of a father as a young boy and now his son will be deprived of a father before he is even born," Loya said.

Lasater and his wife had been trying for a long time to have a child, his family said. Seven months pregnant, his wife was admitted to the hospital for high blood pressure soon after receiving news of her husband's death.

"He was looking forward to being a father so much -- he had just finished the baby's room," Loya said.

Baker, too, recalled Lasater's commitment to his family.

"When I interviewed him for the job in the Pittsburg Police Department here, I remember him telling me that the reason that he decided to come out of the Marine Corps was because he wanted to raise a family and he wanted to stay in one community and he wanted to be a part of that community," Baker said. "He loved being a police officer. He gave 100 percent every day. But in this job, we all know that one day we may have to give our life. That's the reality."

Funeral arrangements are pending, but Baker said the service will likely be held next Monday at the Concord Pavilion.

A somber mood enveloped the department where Lasater spent his nearly three-year career in law enforcement. The flag was lowered to half staff Monday afternoon and grief counselors were available for the department's 73 officers.

Baker said many are still trying to "process the death." Several officers told The Chronicle they had been told not to talk to reporters.

Lasater was born in North Carolina and raised in California. He liked country music, riding dirt bikes and wrestling, his mom said. He graduated from UC Davis with a degree in political science and history before joining the Marines.

He became a commissioned officer in 1994, retired in 2000 and rejoined the reserves in 2003, said Maj. Mike Samarov.

"He was a small guy with a lot of heart, grit and determination," his mother said.

"When he became a cop, he was so happy to be a street officer. He didn't want to sit behind a desk and tell people what to do. He wanted to be out in the community."

The former tank commander was shot when he went after two suspects wanted in connection with the robbery of a Raley's supermarket in Pittsburg, authorities said. One suspect in Lasater's killing was identified as 18-year-old Alexander Rashad Hamilton of Antioch. Police also arrested a 17-year-old but did not identify him because he is a minor.

Baker said his department will press the district attorney to file a murder charge against Hamilton and will ask that the 17-year-old be tried as an adult on the same charge. They will also ask federal prosecutors to file armed robbery charges because the teens allegedly robbed a Wells Fargo branch in the supermarket.

The district attorney's office had not received the police report Monday and would not comment.

Investigators said the two teens robbed a cashier and a bank clerk, then fled. Lasater and other officers were looking for the suspects when Lasater heard movement in heavy brush along a fence and ordered the suspects to surrender, police said.

Hamilton allegedly opened fire and struck Lasater, who was wearing body armor, in the neck and thigh. The officer had drawn his weapon but didn't have time to fire, Baker said. Two officers nearby fired back but missed Hamilton. He continued to shoot for several minutes before he was arrested, police said.

The 17-year-old, who ran after the shooting started, was arrested on a nearby street.

Loya said the officers who were with her son when he was shot have dropped by the house to visit.

"It hurts me to see them suffering so much," she said. "To look at them and see the anguish they are going through. It kills me to see the agony they are in."

Lasater is the second Pittsburg officer killed in two years. On April 15, 2003, Ray Giacomelli was gunned down while investigating a homicide. The city recently dedicated a Highway 4 overpass in Giacomelli's name. The suspect in his death was killed two days later in a police shootout in Modesto.

27 Posts
Let us all say a prayer for one of ours.....its been happening too much lately! ...let's pray for his wife and his unborn son. Because of some dumb ass, another one of our brothers is losing his life. These asses should just start shooting eachother instead, less of a problem on the streets..
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