Sheriff's deputies responding to a domestic violence report late Tuesday shot and killed a 39-year-old Lake Elsinore man and his pit bull outside the man's home, authorities said.
Ashword Codd was behaving aggressively and carried what appeared to be a gun when he came out of his Cypress Glen Court house with his pit bull, authorities said. The home is on a cul-de-sac in the Canyon Hills area.
Deputies shot the dog first, then Codd, said Sgt. Mike Lujan of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
According to a sheriff's news release, a woman had called deputies for help from a neighborhood doughnut shop shortly before midnight. The woman said that Codd -- with whom she has three children -- had assaulted her.
Sheriff's officials declined to release the woman's name, but court records show Codd has a 2008 domestic violence-related conviction for an assault involving his girlfriend, Reyna Johnston, now 35, and their young daughter.
Deputies arrived at the doughnut shop to find the woman with what appeared to be a broken nose. They went to the couple's home and called for Codd to come outside. At first, he refused, but when he did emerge from the front door he confronted the deputies "in a hostile and aggressive manner," the release said.
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Joe Borja said Codd was holding a long lighter -- the kind used to light a fire -- as if it were a gun.
Erin McGee, 19, who lives across the street, said she heard a commotion after midnight and went to the window. She saw her neighbor with his pit bull arguing with four deputies.
"A bunch of rounds went off," McGee said. "I just dove in the hallway."
When she looked outside again, her neighbor and his dog had both been shot. It was horrible," she said, adding that her neighbor's body was lying in front of his house well into the morning.
McGee said the family had just moved in around Easter and that Codd seemed like a nice person. Codd had mentioned that he wanted his wife, who is a hairstylist in Orange County, to stay home more with their children, McGee said.
Investigators were still at the scene Wednesday afternoon. Yellow crime-scene tape blocked access to the couple's large two-story home. Multiple bullet holes in the stucco near the front door were visible from the street.
Lujan said the couple's three children were asleep upstairs when their father was shot.
Sheriff's officials did not release the names of the deputies involved but said they have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in such circumstances.
Lujan said Codd worked at an oil refinery in the Los Angeles area. The couple had a 2-year-old boy and two girls ages 3 and 5.
According to court documents, Codd was convicted in connection with an August 2007 incident, during which he threw a cell phone at Johnston while she held their infant daughter, then grabbed Johnston by the hair. He used a knife to cut off some of her hair and in the process injured her shoulder. A month later, Johnston accused him of threatening her with a steak knife while she lay in bed with the baby, court documents show.
Codd was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three years of probation and was required to enroll in domestic violence prevention classes, court records show.
Update June 18, 2010 9:45pm - The following article is by Sarah Burge, The Press-Enterprise:
Fatal shooting by Lake Elsinore deputies denounced
Friends and neighbors are speaking out against the fatal shooting of an unarmed man and his dog last month at a home in Lake Elsinore.
"I don't get it," said John Welch, 59, a next-door neighbor who heard the gunfire and witnessed the aftermath. "This was just totally wrong ... it's just complete incompetence."
Sheriff's officials have said Ashword Codd, 39, was behaving aggressively and holding a lighter that deputies mistook for a gun when he was fatally shot. The deputies were responding to a report that Codd had struck the mother of his children, Reyna Johnston. Three children were in bed upstairs when the deputies opened fire.
Court records say Codd approached the deputies, cursing, after they shot the family dog, which had escaped out the front door.
Elliot Willis, who lives in Los Angeles County and described himself as a close friend of Codd's, said he is convinced that the deputies involved made a series of poor decisions and need better training.
"The more I hear, the more backwards this whole thing sounds," he said of the shooting. "The main thing is I don't want this to happen to someone else."
Although there was no excuse for Codd to hurt Johnston, Willis said, he did not deserve to be killed for it.
Despite the couple's problems, Willis said, Codd was a good person and had a lot to live for -- his children, a good job at an oil refinery, a nice new house.
The day after the May 26 shooting, Willis drove to his friend's home looking for answers. He posted a sign in the front yard that read, "This was a senseless act that took a father and a friend away! We miss you Ash."
Johnston did not return messages from a reporter.
Friends and neighbors said they believed Johnston had retained a lawyer and had been advised not to speak publicly about the case. They said the couple was not married but had three young children together in addition to Johnston's two children from a previous relationship.
Sheriff's officials on Friday declined to answer questions about the specifics of the shooting or to address the concerns raised over the deputies' actions.
Sheriff's Lt. Terry Hudson said via e-mail that it could be several months before the case is sent to the Riverside County district attorney's office for review.
According to an affidavit in support of a search warrant, Codd's stepdaughter had called the Sheriff's Department about 11 p.m. May 25 to report that Codd had assaulted her mother in the family's home on Cypress Glen Court, a cul-de-sac in the Canyon Hills neighborhood.
Before deputies got there, sheriff's dispatch received a call from Johnston, who was at a doughnut shop nearby. She said Codd struck her in the face with his fist and bloodied her nose. According to the affidavit, she told deputies that Codd was violent and she was worried because the children were left alone with him.
TWO DOZEN SHOTS
Deputies went to the home knowing that Codd was on probation for a previous domestic violence incident and that there was still an active restraining order against him.
From outside, they saw Codd through an upstairs window and noticed he had an object in his hand, the affidavit says.
They ordered him to come to the door, but he did not.
Meanwhile, deputies tested the front door and noticed it was unlocked. It is not clear from the affidavit who opened the door.
Willis said Johnston's son opened it and that the deputies ordered him away from the house.
Once the door was opened, the affidavit says, the dog ran toward the deputies, who were yelling for Codd to come outside.
The deputies shot the dog -- a female pit bull mix named Harley -- four times.
Codd came downstairs and approached the deputies angrily, cursing and asking what they wanted, the affidavit says.
Seeing a shiny object in his hand, deputies shouted, "Gun! Gun!" and told Codd to drop it, the affidavit says. He did not drop the object and deputies opened fire, according to the affidavit.
Three deputies fired 23 to 25 shots at Codd, the affidavit says.
Welch said he was drifting off to sleep around 12:30 a.m. when he heard what sounded like two gunshots followed by Codd's voice.
A woman in Welch's home heard Codd yell, "You shot my dog!" Welch said.
Moments later, Welch said, he heard a hail of gunfire.
"Like popcorn, it just went off," Welch said.
When Welch made it outside, he heard Codd's dying sounds from just a few feet away.
Later, he realized the dog was behind a pillar on his front porch, still conscious.
"The animal had run out of the house and they decided to shoot it," Welch said. "The dog's a scaredy-cat."
Welch said he asked deputies to get help for the dog, but the animal was left to bleed to death over the course of two hours.
According to the search warrant affidavit, Johnston told sheriff's investigators later that Codd might have been drinking before he grabbed her by the hair and struck her May 25.
She said Codd became enraged after looking at her cell phone records, accusing her of having an affair, the affidavit says.
Sheriff's officials said the three deputies -- Bradley Bryan, Gabriel Constantin and Cole Simon -- were placed on administrative leave immediately following the shooting, which is standard procedure in such cases.
They have since returned to duty.