An ex-con arrested earlier this month in connection with a carjacking was charged Wednesday with trying to kill two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, who were wounded in an ambush shooting while sitting in their patrol car outside a transit center in Compton.
Deonte Lee Murray, 36, is set to be arraigned Wednesday at the Compton courthouse on two counts each of attempted murder of a peace officer and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the Sept. 12 attack on the deputies, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
He had already been charged Sept. 17 with one felony count each of carjacking, second-degree robbery and assault with a semi-automatic firearm — along with gang and gun allegations — involving a Sept. 1 carjacking in Compton, in which he allegedly shot a man in the leg with a high-powered rifle and stole his black Mercedes-Benz. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and has remained behind bars since his Sept. 15 arrest.
Murray could face a potential life prison term if convicted of the charges, District Attorney Jackie Lacey told reporters. She said prosecutors believe the evidence is “strong.”
Murray allegedly fled the scene of the deputies’ shooting in the stolen black sedan and discarded a pistol while being pursued by sheriff’s investigators prior to a standoff in Lynwood, according to sheriff’s homicide Capt. Kent Wegener. The pistol was the same one that had been used to shoot the sheriff’s deputies in Compton and was “conclusively linked through forensic testing” to Murray, he said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva had told multiple media outlets that there was no connection between the ambush of the deputies and the carjacking suspect, who was arrested after a chase and standoff that ended in Lynwood.
Investigators initially had no evidence that Murray — who has prior convictions for sales and possession of narcotics, firearm possession by a felon or addict, receiving stolen property, burglary and terrorist threats — was responsible for the attack on the deputies, according to Wegener.
“We knew that he was a violent offender, was accused of stealing a black Mercedes-Benz and lived in the area. However, there was insufficient evidence to support an arrest, much less a criminal filing for the charge of attempted murder on a peace officer and to label him in the media as the person responsible,” the sheriff’s homicide captain said.
“Additionally, bringing the public focus on him at that point of the investigation may have influenced the pending witness interviews and further compromised the mission of solving the attempted murder of the deputies,” he said. “As the investigation progressed, we gathered sufficient evidence to substantiate not only the arrest but the filing of criminal charges in this case.”
The sheriff said “we saw the worst of humanity — a cowardly act where a suspect ambushed and shot and attempted to kill two of our deputies.”
“This cowardly ambush was followed by bystanders celebrating and cheering that the deputies had been shot, and that followed at the hospital — the sanctity, the quiet sanctity of the hospital — with protesters cheering and chanting for the deputies to die,” Villanueva said. “These acts and that day, I will not forget it, and it represents the worst in humanity and it shocked the whole nation. And that evening, I said we will find this man. And I can report today, we have found our suspect.”
He noted that there was also an “outpouring of support” from across the nation, including both presidential candidates and people from all walks of life.
“Sometimes from the worst comes the best and this is an example of that,” the sheriff said.
Both deputies are recovering at home, Villanueva added.