On Thursday night, June 24, a little after 9 p.m., a multi-agency task force made up of Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, and DEA agents were meeting in the back parking lot of the Chipotle Mexican Grill, located on corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvds.
The officers had just served a search warrant as part of an operation targeting what they designated as a “High Intensity Drug Traffic Area.’ Now they were standing around debriefing behind Chipotle’s.
As the officers talked, they noticed a guy peering into some parked cars in another part of the lot, including some of their own unmarked cars. The officers said later, they thought the guy might be casing vehicles with the intention of committing a crime.
A couple of the officers confronted the guy whom, they said, declined to comply. A struggle reportedly ensued.
After that, events moved quickly, according to a report by Lt. Gallagher of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
An additional deputy approached to assist, drew his handgun, and ordered the suspect to the ground. A white sedan, driven by a second suspect, sped toward the group, hitting the deputy.
The deputy was thrown into the air, landed on the hood, hit the windshield, and was thrown back onto the ground. The deputy and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, fearing for their lives, fired their duty weapons at the suspect vehicle. The car accelerated a short distance through the parking lot, crashing into several parked cars.
It is unknown, at this time, if the two suspects were connected.
The first suspect was being detained and questioned by detectives
The second “suspect” was 18-year-old Zac Champommier. The “white sedan” was his Toyota stick shift, reportedly registered to his mother.
Three weeks before to the night, Zac had graduated with honors from Granada Hills Charter High School. In the fall, he would be heading for college.
In high school, however, more than anything, Zac had been a band and orchestra kid—a music guy. He played the saxophone in Granada Hills’ Highlander marching band. In the school orchestra, he played strings, usually the viola. The band kids socialized together, did tour dates, entered contests. They were something like a big family, according to friends and teachers.
In terms of his own family, Zach was the only child of a single mom, Carol, who doted on her son. She and Zac’s dad, Rick Feldman, were divorced and badly estranged, but the dad still adored the kid too. Carol is an elementary school teacher. Most of her students’ parents had either heard a lot about or met Zac. She was that kind of over-the-moon proud.
It appears the pride was warranted. According to his friends’ anguished posts on the Facebook page put up in his honor, Zac was funny, talented, smart, handsome, lively, gentle, playful, idealistic—a kid who was going good places, who would expected to succeed, but likely not lose his soul doing it.
One of his friends noted that he always wore a chain with an angel wing charm, a symbol of his idealism.
In December of 2009, he wrote on his MySpace page that he wanted to get an education….see the world, meet new people, and then “I’ll find that special someone, I’ll learn everything I want to, I’ll do what I want with my life and live in that house in the mountains and own a bookstore!
“Ya, that’s actually what I want. No joke.”
Friends and teachers also posted in the comments section of the LA Times Homicide report. In the posts they were adamant that events on the night Zac died, as the sheriffs described them, were in no way consistent with the Zac Champommier that everyone had known.
“I knew Zachary,” wrote one of the teachers, “… he was one of my students and nothing in his character would ever convince his peers, family and friends that he did something deliberately destructive or hurtful to another person. He would not have knowingly attacked law enforcement officers. It simply wasn’t in his nature.”
Yet it is a fact that Zac slammed into a sheriff’s deputy with his car, and it is a fact that Zac Champommier was shot dead by two members of law enforcement. According to the coroner, the fatal bullet entered through his left arm into his armpit then traveled deeper.
So what in the world happened? How did this good kid with no priors, loads of friends, a bright future, doting family, no immediately evident dank emotional reservoirs, end up tossing a deputy with a car, then get himself shot dead by law enforcement in a Studio City parking lot on a Thursday night.?
Before we can answer those larger questions, a great many smaller ones need to be answered.
Were the deputies and DEA guys all in plain clothes, or were some in uniform? In other words, what did Zac believe he was seeing in those last, bad seconds of his life that night?
Did Zac and the other kid/man (his age is not yet available) know each other?
Zac was supposedly meeting someone at the restaurant. Who was he meeting and why? Did he ever meet them? Does it matter?
The list goes on from there, but thus far the sheriffs have not shared much of whatever information they have. Although the DA’s office is also investigating (as they always do with an officer involved shooting), they are saying even less.
There are other kinds of questions too. Although Zac died between 9 and 10 p.m. on Thursday night, his mother told friends she wasn’t notified until the following morning, after she called the police to file a missing persons report. If that’s true, why the pain-causing delay? The boy had with him plenty of identification.
No answers will bring this boy back. But his parents want to know and they deserve some answers. Right now they’ve gotten few.
“What am I going to do without him? What am I going to do?” his mother sobbed earlier this week, suddenly collapsing into the arms of another mother whose own son had been Zac’s close friend . The sobbing occurred at Zac’s cremation, when Carol, the mother, saw her boy for the last time—but saw him this time the way that every parent dreads the most—laid out in his casket.
When she regained control, Carol stared silently at Zac’s still form and her face softened as she held hard to the hand of the other mother.
“He’s perfect, isn’t he?” Absolutely perfect, replied the other mother, and she meant it.
“I believe she broke down with me,” the 2nd mother wrote afterward to another friend, “because she knows I know the kind of son she lost, because I have one of my own who in so many ways walked, walks still, the same path as Zac. And she knows I know exactly what she’s lost.”
So how and why did a sequence of events occur that ended with the “perfect” boy lying dead in a parking lot at Laurel Canyon and Ventura?
It feels important to know.
PS: It should be noted that Zac Champommier is not at all the only loved young man to have died violently this month, this year. And, except to those who cared about him, his death is not inherently more significant—his life more valuable—than those of those other young men (or young women).
However, sometimes, for whatever reason, the plight of a single person will catch our attention, and we feel the need to scream: Attention must be paid.
So it was (and still is) with Matrice Richardson, who even now is missing, and with Jamel Shaw…and with Lily Burk, and others.
And now, perhaps, Zac Champommier.
Attention must be paid.