Francis William Varney, 77
Francis William Varney, a 77-year-old white man, was shot and killed Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the 500 block of West 4th Street in Azusa, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records.
Varney was one of three people who were shot when his next-door neighbor, Carlos Francisco Mendez, came out of his home armed with an automatic rifle around 2:25 p.m. and began firing at whomever he saw, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina.
Mendez, a 45-year-old Latino, first shot at passing cars, hitting a woman who was driving a van. The woman was struck in the head, Corina said, and her van crashed moments later.
Varney was shot when he walked out of his house, apparently to investigate the commotion, Corina said. Mendez then shot a woman who was walking down the street.
Police officers arrived a short time later responding to reports about shots fired, Corina said. As they tried to help the injured, Mendez began shooting at them from the front porch area of his home, Corina said.
Mendez allegedly fired at least 20 rounds at police, The Times reported. Six officers — five from Azusa and one from Irwindale — returned fire until Mendez stopped shooting, Corina said.
None of the officers were injured in the shootout. Varney was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:40 p.m., according to coroner’s records.
The two women, ages 65 and 59, were airlifted to a hospital and are in critical condition, Corina said.
Mendez was pronounced dead at the scene, but not until 5:18 p.m., according to coroner's records.
Officers could see the feet of a motionless person half in the front door after the shootout, Corina said, but they didn’t know if there was more than one shooter, or if the person lying in the entryway was an earlier victim.
Investigators used a robot from the sheriff’s department to finally move onto the porch area and verify that Mendez was dead.
No one else was in the house, Corina said. Family members told investigators that they had left home the night before after Mendez began “bingeing” on cocaine and acting strangely.
Mendez worked for the city of Garden Grove, in the public works department, Corina said. He collected guns and had at least four weapons, including handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. He and his family had lived in the house for about five months, The Times reported.
Neighbors remembered Varney as a “nice, quiet man” who had lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years and was friendly with everyone, including Mendez, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.
Varney was widower who usually walked every morning with his Chihuahua dog Half Pint, greeting “the folks he met, from city yard workers to residents out for a run,” the Tribune reported.
The sheriff’s department is investigating the shootings, but Corina said 10 agencies were at the scene that day, providing assistance. Nearby schools, streets and a polling place were locked down while investigators tried to figure out the nature of the shooting and whether other gunmen were involved.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Homicide Report at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.