Detectives were investigating whether the couple's financial problems or other marital difficulties played a role in the killing that police said occurred during an argument Monday night while the couple's two sons, both under 10, were in the house.
Police were unsure if the children witnessed the argument or gunfire. They were placed with relatives.
April Jace, 40, was shot multiple times and was found dead in a hallway of the family home in the quiet, modest Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Police recovered a handgun believed to belong to her husband, Los Angeles police Detective Dean Vinluan said.
"She came home with the kids and then the dispute happened and the shooting happened," he said.
Jace called 911, said he'd shot his wife and then was seen walking out of the home as officers arrived, Vinluan said. He was detained and later arrested.
Jace was booked on suspicion of homicide, and detectives intend to review the full 911 call and other calls from neighbors reporting that shots had been fired before he is formally charged.
Jace, 51, is best known for his role as LAPD Officer Julien Lowe in "The Shield." He also appeared on the show "Southland" and had small roles in the movies "Planet of the Apes," ''Boogie Nights" and "Forrest Gump."
Vinluan said there had been no reports of domestic violence at the home. However, the actor had been under financial pressure in recent years. He declared for bankruptcy in 2011 and had been delinquent on payments as recently as December.
Next-door neighbor Shirley Harding described the Jaces as good, hands-on parents.
"I never heard arguments," she said. "I just heard happiness over there."
The actor has a son from a previous marriage and was accused in divorce proceedings of being violent toward his ex-wife.
Maria de la Vega, a close friend of Jace's ex-wife Jennifer Bitterman, wrote in a court filing that she saw the actor become violent several times. In August 1997, de la Vega wrote, Jace choked Bitterman and slammed her head into a wall while their infant son was crying in a crib next to them.
In his filing, Jace wrote that he and Bitterman "were both guilty of overstepping physical boundaries."
April Jace was a schoolteacher for 10 years before taking a job in March 2013 as a financial aid counselor at Biola University, a private Christian school. Geoff Marsh, Biola's senior director of financial aid, said she had a radiant personality.
"Her love for helping students and families and her great work ethic earned the respect and love of her co-workers," he said in a written statement.
Michael Jace's bankruptcy filing listed debts between $500,000 and $1 million. Much of the debt appeared related to his home, with an additional $22,000 owed in state and federal income taxes. More than $20,000 of his tax delinquency was owed to the state of California for the year 2008. He agreed to a payment plan, but had fallen behind as recently as December, records show.
In a statement of his assets, Jace checked a box indicating he didn't own any firearms. There are no records of any criminal cases involving Michael Jace in Los Angeles.
Jace consistently found work in Hollywood but remained mostly a bit player. "The Shield" ended its seven-season run in 2008 after Jace appeared in all but one episode, according to IMDB.com, an Internet movie database.
"He's one of those people whose faces you'd recognize but you don't know their names," said veteran casting director Sheila Manning. "He's a solid actor. Nothing big, but he's a working actor."
Calls seeking comment from Jace's agents at SMS Talent were not immediately returned. It could not immediately be determined if he had a lawyer.
Associated Press Writers Christopher Weber, Lynn Elber and Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.
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