Anthony Lee (actor)

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Anthony Lee
BornAnthony Dwain Lee
(1961-07-17)July 17, 1961
Redding, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 28, 2000(2000-10-28) (aged 39)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Multiple gunshot wounds
NationalityAmerican
EthnicityAfrican-American
EducationValley High School
OccupationActor
ReligionBaptist
Sōka Gakkai (1986-2000)
Spouse(s)Serena Scholl (m. 1988–96)
 
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Anthony Lee
BornAnthony Dwain Lee
(1961-07-17)July 17, 1961
Redding, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 28, 2000(2000-10-28) (aged 39)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Multiple gunshot wounds
NationalityAmerican
EthnicityAfrican-American
EducationValley High School
OccupationActor
ReligionBaptist
Sōka Gakkai (1986-2000)
Spouse(s)Serena Scholl (m. 1988–96)

Anthony Dwain Lee (July 17, 1961 – October 28, 2000) was an American stage, television and film actor. A former gang member, Lee turned to acting to escape gang life. He began his career in the 1980s appearing in numerous stage productions and in guest roles on television and in films.

While attending a Halloween party in October 2000, Lee was fatally shot by a LAPD officer. Lee's death and the circumstances surrounding it garnered significant national and international media attention.

Early life and career[edit]

Lee was born in Redding, California and grew up in a middle-class family in Sacramento where he attended Valley High School. As he teen, he got involved with the Crips and sold drugs. He turned to acting after being stabbed in the back at age 20 during a fight. Lee attending an acting course and later began performing in Sacramento theaters. He later joined the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he became interested in classic plays. In 1988, he moved to Seattle where he worked with the Seattle Repertory Theatre appearing in The Cider House Rules as Mr. Rose, Spunk as Sweet Back, and A Raisin in the Sun.[1][2] He also acted in The Kentucky Cycle at the Intiman Theatre and appeared in productions of The Colored Museum, Uncle Vanya, The Meeting as Malcolm X, and as the lead character in Othello.[3]

In 1989, Lee made his film debut in a bit part in short film At a Loose End?. In 1996, Lee guest starred on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and NYPD Blue. In 1997, he appeared in the comedy film Liar Liar, starring Jim Carrey and in the HBO film The Second Civil War. That same year, he also had a recurring role on the CBS crime drama series Brooklyn South. In 1998, he guest starred on Arliss, and in two episodes of Any Day Now.

Lee's last onscreen appearance was on the Season 7 ER episode "Rescue Me" in which he portrayed a drug addicted homeless man. The episode, which aired on November 23, 2000, is dedicated to him.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Religion[edit]

Lee was raised a Baptist, but began practicing Nichiren Buddhism with Sōka Gakkai International.[5]

Death[edit]

On October 28, 2000, Lee was attending a costume party party in Benedict Canyon at a friend's mansion dubbed "The Castle". Lee was dressed as a devil wearing a mask and long, black cape. He was also carrying a replica of a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle made of rubber. Sometime around 1 a.m, two LAPD officers, Officer Terrill Hopper and Officer Natalie Humpherys, responded to a noise complaint at the residence. The two were met by a private security guard hired by one of the party's hosts. The security guard showed the officers to the kitchen and left them to find one of the party hosts.[5]

Before the party hosts could be found, Officer Hopper left the kitchen, exiting through a side door. Hopper searched the darkened narrow path area behind the home with his flashlight before coming upon a glass door. Behind the door stood Lee and his friend, fellow actor Jeff Denton. The two were in Denton's bedroom chatting with another actor when they saw Officer Hopper's flashlight shine through the glass door.[5][6] Officer Hopper then shot through the glass door nine times, hitting Lee a total of four times. Lee died at the scene.[7] Officer Hopper later said he fired his weapon because Lee aimed his replica gun at him and was unaware that the gun was not real.

A memorial service in Lee's honor was held at Sōka Gakkai International, Los Angeles Friendship Center, a Nichiren Buddhist community center in West Los Angeles, counted among the four memorials held in Seattle, Sacramento and Milwaukee.

Autopsy findings and lawsuits[edit]

On October 30, 2000, Bernard C. Parks, who was then the chief of the LAPD, held a press conference to address the events surrounding Lee's shooting. Parks maintained that Officer Hopper acted in self-defense and that Lee was pointing the replica gun "in a very direct location" towards Officer Hopper. Parks also showed the replica gun Lee was carrying at the time of the shooting comparing it to a real Desert Eagle. The replica reportedly appeared to be a near match.[8]

On December 4, 2000, the results of Lee's autopsy were released. The autopsy determined that Lee was struck once in the back of the head and three times in the back. A toxicology reports also showed that Lee had alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time of his death.[9]

On December 11, 2000 attorney Johnnie Cochran filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD on behalf of Tina Lee-Vogt, Lee's younger sister. Cochran, who was a vocal critic of the LAPD, stated that the "LAPD has never seen a shooting they didn't think they could justify". During a press conference held that same day, Cochran referred to Lee's autopsy report that showed the actor had been shot in the back of the head and in the back as proof that Officer Hopper's version of events were false. LAPD chief Bernard C. Parks said the positioning of Lee's wounds were likely sustained when Lee ducked or moved when he saw Officer Hopper's gun or was fired upon. Cochran dismissed Park's theory stating that it was, "so improbable. We have asked our experts about that, and it is very, very improbable." Cochran also dismissed Officer Hopper's claim that he was unaware that the gun was fake. Cochran stated, "Witnesses said this was a replica gun, and if you know replicas, they have those little orange tips on them so people who come in contact with them who are trained become aware."[10]

Two other party attendants filed lawsuits against the LAPD. Jeff Denton, Lee's friend and one of the house's occupants, was standing next to the actor in his bedroom when Lee was shot. He claimed he suffered post-traumatic stress. Will Frey, another party attendant, also filed suit.[11]

Investigation[edit]

The LAPD and L.A County D.A. Steve Cooley both launched investigations to determine if Officer Hopper's actions were in line with policy. According to Officer Hopper, while he was searching the area outside the home, he noticed one party attendant standing outside looking "intently" through a glass door. Officer Hopper approached the man and looked through the door to see Lee and his friends talking in what Officer Hopper described as a "very dimly lit room". Lee was standing in front of Officer Hopper slightly to the left wearing his devil mask on top of his head. Officer Hopper stated that when he shined his flashlight in the room, he saw what he suspected to be a drug deal transpiring.[12] Officer Hopper accounted the rest of the events during his interview with investigators:

"The male Black (Lee) turns and looks toward the glass door where I'm positioned... He looks directly at me and we make eye contact. Almost simultaneously, upon making eye contact, he reached for his waistband...with his right hand...and removed a blue steel semi-automatic handgun...at which point, fearing for my life, I drew my weapon from my holster and, after he removed the gun he pointed the weapon, his gun, right at me and fearful for my safety and my life I fired my weapon, my service weapon...During this entire time, it happened very, very quickly, his gun was continually pointing at me...I fired my weapon, continually assessing the situation, and it was very, very rapid and I fired...and he never dropped the weapon...he never made an attempt to drop the weapon or anything. The weapon stayed pointed toward me...while firing, I'm moving backwards toward a position of cover and, as this is happening, I recognize that my weapon is out of battery."[13]

In conjunction with their investigation, the LAPD employed an expert who created a computer reenactment based on physical evidence of the shooting. According to the LAPD, the reenactment supported Officer Hopper's version of events. In October 2001, the LAPD internal review board ruled that Officer Hopper's actions were justifiable and he was "in policy" using deadly force. According to LAPD officials, the board also recommended that Officer Hopper seek additional training to "improve his tactics".[14]

Aftermath[edit]

Some of Lee's friends and family continue to dispute the LAPD's version of events. Lee's sister, Tina Lee-Vogt, doubted the ruling due to Lee's autopsy report which determined he was shot in the back multiple times. She later filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the department. In February 2003, the LAPD settled with Lee-Vogt for $225,000.[15]

Friends of Lee maintain that the actor's death was not a mistake and that he was a victim of racial profiling. Other friends maintained that Lee would not have pointed a weapon, real or fake, at a police officer because he feared being shot by a cop because he was black. However, it is unknown if Officer Hopper was aware that Lee was black at the time of the shooting. Hopper himself is also black.[16]

Lee's shooting drew more criticism to the LAPD at a time when the department's reputation was already suffering due to allegations of police brutality, corruption and civil rights violations.[16]

The circumstances surrounding Lee's death drew nation wide media attention. Lee's story was later featured on 48 Hours.

Filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1986Fortune DaneSpecial Officer in GarageEpisode: "Fortune Dane"
1989At a Loose End?Mountain Man
1991Face of a StrangerEmergency DoctorTelevision movie
1996Dr. Quinn, Medicine WomanCurtis RoperEpisode: "The Iceman Cometh"
1996American StraysOmar
1996NYPD BlueJeromeEpisode: "Where's 'Swaldo"
1997The Second Civil WarSteven KingsleyHBO film
1997Liar LiarFred
1997Brooklyn SouthReverend Basil Matheson3 episodes
1997The Magnificent SevenGuard PhillipsEpisode: "Inmate 78"
1998ArlissDwayne's BrotherEpisode: "The Family Trust"
1998Any Day NowMichael Gardner2 episodes
1999Chicago HopeJohnEpisode: "From Here to Maternity"
2000Little RichardTelevision movie
2000ERMr. FloreaEpisode: "Rescue Me"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vogel, Nancy (November 19, 2000). "Friends, Family Share Farewells for Slain Actor". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ Misha, Berson (October 10, 1993). "Can-Do Guy -- Actor Anthony Lee Won't Let Any Obstacle Stand In The Way Of His Dream". seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  3. ^ Berson, Misha (October 31, 2000). "Anthony Lee's life was short, meaningful". seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ "'ER' episode dedicated to slain actor". Reading Eagle. November 25, 2000. p. B10. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Josh, Meyer; Hall, Carla; Streeter, Kurt (November 5, 2000). "2 Lives Shattered in a Moment at the Castle". latimes.com. p. 2. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  6. ^ Josh, Meyer; Hall, Carla; Streeter, Kurt (November 5, 2000). "2 Lives Shattered in a Moment at the Castle". latimes.com. p. 3. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Lin, Judy (October 30, 2000). "Friends outraged over police killing of Halloween partygoer". Herald-Journal. pp. A–2. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ Meyer, Josh; Fox, Sue; Streeter, Kurt (October 31, 2000). "Police Release Details of Party Shooting". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ Rabin, Jeffrey L.; Streeter, Kurt (December 5, 2000). "Officer's Bullets Hit Actor in Back, Autopsy Finds". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ Kurt, Streeter (December 12, 2000). "$100 Million Sought in Shooting of Actor". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  11. ^ Barry, Steve (February 6, 2003). "Accord Reached in Police Slaying". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  12. ^ Report On the Death Of Anthony Dwayne Lee. Justice System Integrity Division. p. 5. 
  13. ^ Report On the Death Of Anthony Dwayne Lee. Justice System Integrity Division. p. 8. 
  14. ^ Glover, Scott; Lait, Matt (October 23, 2001). "Slaying by Officer Is Ruled Justified". latimes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Investigators: An Unexpected Turn". cbsnews.com. February 11, 2009. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Judy, Lin (October 26, 2000). "Police shooting of costumed man upsets friend". Allegheny Times. p. D2. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 

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