Port of L.A. security under scrutiny after man climbs on crane, falls to his death
The Port of Los Angeles said Thursday it is reviewing its security protocols after a man driving a stolen SUV— who evaded police at least twice — breached a security gate into the West Basin Shipping Terminal, climbed a gantry crane, and eventually fell or jumped to his death Wednesday night.
The man was identified Thursday, August 17, as James Llamas, 23. His city of residence was not known, according to Ed Winter, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. An autopsy is pending, he said.
Online records show a James Llamas with his birthdate lived in Rialto, and had a record that included a conviction for spousal abuse. He was in violation of his probation at the time of his death.
The incident began at about 10:30 a.m., when San Bernardino police reported the man stole a vehicle from a Mitsubishi car lot. At some point in the early evening, the man was spotted in the SUV by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Wilshire Division. The chase came through Torrance on Hawthorne Boulevard, where police followed him south over the Palos Verdes Peninsula at high speed.
Long Beach police picked up the fleeing motorist and the chase moved through that city, returning through Wilmington into San Pedro and, ultimately, into the Port of Los Angeles complex.
The man was driving on the wrong side of several roads and scraping the SUV against K-rails along the way before heading into the harbor area. The rear bumper was badly damaged, hanging off the vehicle during the pursuit.
The man breached a security gate at the Port of Los Angeles at about 5:50 p.m., then sped up and down the terminal as longshore workers looked on. The man then got out of the SUV and began to climb crane 87, reaching a perch 120 feet above sea level, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.
The man removed his clothing and was seen dancing around the area and lounging on his back during a standoff that lasted several hours. At one point the man slipped and was hanging on, and was able to re-establish himself, Sanfield said.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters positioned themselves below and crews, including divers, waited in boats, ready to attempt a rescue or recovery if the man jumped or fell into the water.
Sanfield said members of a tactical unit went up the crane and tried to make contact with the man, but they were only able to make verbal contact at a distance.
“He basically said two words, ‘Go away,’” Sanfield said. “They backed off and were assessing the next step.”
At about 9:20 p.m., the man either jumped or fell. No one will ever know which it was, Sanfield said, because Llamas was in a “very precarious position” on the crane.
He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Amy Bastman of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
At the direction of Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, L.A. Port Police have launched a “full investigation into all circumstances” regarding the incident, including the security breach, according to a statement Thursday.
“This thorough review, including protocols necessary to address improvements, will be completed as soon as possible,” the statement said.
More than 12,000 people work along the dock daily, and thousands of truckers come in and out of gates. Creating a security system that will allow for continued movement of billions of dollars worth of goods annually, while also blocking out potential threats will prove challenging.
“We have to do everything we can to avoid another breach of security,” said Joe Buscaino, the L.A. city councilman who represents the district and will also be calling for an investigation.
“This could have been a lot worse. What unfolded on live television exposed the vulnerabilities to the public,” Buscaino said. “Had he been armed with explosives, he could have shut down our port and the economy.
“We don’t want to give anyone the leverage to attack the most treasured assets of our economy.”
San Bernardino County Superior Court records show Llamas was charged on Nov. 6, 2015, with robbery, spousal abuse and petty theft.
He pleaded no contest in April 2016 to one count of spousal abuse and was placed on three years probation, sentenced to 180 days in county jail and ordered to attend a 52-week domestic violence program for batterers. The other charges were dismissed.
He was scheduled to be finished with the program on May 6. But on Feb. 14, prosecutors filed notice that he failed to enroll in the classes and his probation was revoked on March 8.
Staff Writer Larry Altman contributed to this article.
Powered by WPeMatico