"He heard a noise, went to check it out," father-in-law Darryl Mooney, 46, said by telephone. "The next thing you know, he's shot by police."
The Anaheim Police Department said the officer, whose name it withheld, was driving in a marked police car around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday when he saw four youths who ran when they spotted him.
He chased on foot and the group splintered, running over fences and through yards. Police Chief John Welter said the officer encountered Alexander in his front yard, mistook him for a suspect and shot him. He was declared dead at a hospital.
"Julian Alexander was innocent of anything that was going on in the neighborhood at that time," Police Chief John Welter said. "We certainly don't want to take the life of someone who is mistakenly believed to be involved in some criminal activity."
According to police, Alexander was holding a "club-style weapon." Mooney said it was a broomstick. Alexander's wife and mother said they saw him handcuffed and bleeding in the front yard.
Alexander, who got married Oct. 19 and had moved in with his in-laws about a year ago, was a happy young man who worked at J.C. Penney Co. with dreams of becoming a veterinarian, Mooney said. His wife, 19-year-old Renee, is due to give birth Dec. 14.
"He was a very positive person. He loved me; he loved God," Renee said. "He just wanted to provide for the family."
The Orange County district attorney's office said it was investigating to determine whether the officer was criminally culpable.
Brian Dunn, an attorney for Alexander's relatives, called the shooting an "egregious display of excessive force" and said the family would file a claim for unspecified damages against the department.
Dunn questioned several elements of the police department's limited account of the shooting, including why the officer didn't call for backup before pursuing the burglary suspects.
"On its face, you can call it a bad shooting," Dunn said. "They have taken the life of a person who clearly had no involvement in any kind of criminal activity."
Police spokesman Rick Martinez said he could not comment further because the case was under investigation.
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