A man who was standing in front of a burning house in El Monte with a knife to the neck of a hostage Wednesday morning was shot by an officer who feared for the victim's life, authorities said.
The incident took place at a home in the 3900 block of Glen Way (map), according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Firefighters initially responded to the location on a house fire call but requested assistance from El Monte police after being unable to gain access to the home because of a possible domestic dispute, according to a spokesperson for the El Monte Police Department.
After receiving the call about 7:37 a.m., responding El Monte police officers arrived to find a hostage situation in front of the house, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
A woman, who appeared to be burned over 90 percent of her body, was being held at knifepoint by an Asian man who also appeared to have suffered some burn injuries, Hernandez said.
Officers repeatedly asked the man to put the knife down, but were unable to understand the responses from the man or his victim, according to Hernandez.
“When the officers saw that the suspect was not going to comply and was holding the knife in a downward direction, right about the victim’s clavicle, they feared that he would stab her and that’s when one of the officers fired one round,” Hernandez said.
The man was struck and taken to a local hospital in critical condition, according to Hernandez, who said the victim was also in critical condition.
Following the shooting, officers were still unable to make entry into the home due to the fire, but eventually broke out a window and located a woman in one of the rooms.
The woman, who was about 70 years old, appeared to have suffered a large stab wound to her shoulder, Hernandez said.
She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to Hernandez.
A third victim, a man in his 40s who had also been burned, was seen by neighbors walking down the street.
“He told me that his brother-in-law went crazy and … wanted to kill the mother-in-law and the wife,” Scott Yu, a resident who helped translate the victim's story to police, said.
Authorities recovered a 12 inch, combat-style knife at the scene, according to Hernandez.
All of the victim's and the alleged hostage taker were members of the same family, but their relationships were not disclosed, Hernandez said.
Although the fire was eventually put out, investigators were still waiting for a warrant to search the rest of the home, Hernandez said.
Aerial video from Sky5 showed officials conducting an investigation outside the home, which had singe marks rising from one of the windows to the roof.
No officers were injured in the incident, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Anyone with information about the incident was encouraged to contact the Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call "Crime Stoppers" by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477).