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Body could be suspected L.A. sniper

SANTA CLARITA, California (CNN) -- Investigators found a body in the ruins of a suburban Los Angeles home Saturday that could be the remains of a man suspected of killing a sheriff's deputy and then setting his own house on fire.

Investigators said they believe 35-year-old James Beck died in the fire he set Friday after federal agents tried to serve him with a search warrant. Los Angeles County Deputy Jake Kuredjian, a 17-year veteran assisting the agents, was killed in the incident.

"We believe the remains are of suspect James Beck, but it won't be confirmed until the coroner's office is able to do a positive identification," Sheriff's Lt. Carl Deeley said Saturday. A positive identification could take several days, he said.

The remains were found near the back of the house by an inside wall of Beck's home in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. Deeley said Beck died "laying across his weapon."

Deputy Jake Kuredjian is shot helping to arrest James Beck (August 31)

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"Underneath the body they found an assault rifle, and close by they found another rifle and a bulletproof vest," he said. Investigators also found a police identification badge and discovered the carcass of Beck's dog in a laundry room leading to the garage, he said.

The deadly drama began when agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, attempted to arrest on charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer and firearms violations, said ATF spokesman Donald Kincaid.

"What we did was what we call a 'call and containment.' We surrounded the area," Kincaid said. "We called the individual on the telephone and asked him to come out because we had information that he had a vicious dog, and some other information."

Beck's girlfriend did leave the house through the garage, but "he came to the door a couple of times and refused to come out," Kincaid said.

When agents tried to enter the house through a window, authorities said, Beck opened fire on them with an automatic weapon. Kuredjian, 40, was shot in the face and died at a hospital a short time later, Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday.

Deeley said Kuredjian was "living his dream" as a deputy.

"He always wanted to become a motor officer, and he became one several months ago," Deeley said. "He was probably one of the most personable people you'd ever meet in your life. I think Jake had hundreds, if not thousands, of friends."

After Kuredjian was shot, Beck held police at bay for about three hours by firing on them from his home. At one point, authorities said, Beck fired shots at a fire department helicopter over the scene.

Negotiators had been in touch with him by telephone, trying to get him to peacefully surrender, before the fire swept through the home. Deputies had lobbed a couple of tear gas canisters at the home shortly before the fire broke out, but the cause of the fire remains unknown.

"We don't know for sure, but we do know tear gas was introduced, and certainly that is a possibility, so we are considering that that started the fire," said Lt. Ray Peavy of the sheriff's homicide unit.

As the fire engulfed the structure, it was not immediately known if Beck was inside. But officials said they believed he was, and was alone. Sheriff's deputies initially would not allow firefighters to come near the house to douse the flames because of safety concerns.

James Beck  

After about 15 minutes firefighters moved a ladder truck into the driveway of a house on the street behind the burning home, and shot water from an unmanned water cannon atop the ladder. They were able to wet down the neighboring homes to keep the fire from spreading to them.

A law enforcement source told CNN that Beck had been convicted on felony burglary and firearms violations and that authorities executed the search warrant because they believed Beck illegally possessed weapons in his residence as an ex-convict.

Deeley said authorities found at least four firearms and "scores of magazines for a variety of weapons, which makes them reasonably sure they're going to find more weapons."

The ATF would not comment on the incident. The U.S. Marshals Service also would not comment, except to confirm that two of its deputies accompanied two ATF agents and two sheriff's deputies to the house Friday morning. The Marshals Service was interested in allegations that Beck impersonated a deputy marshal.

• Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

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