An off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer was killed in an apparent exchange of gunfire with as many as three armed robbery suspects in the unincorporated Firestone-Florence neighborhood, and authorities Tuesday sought public help to solve the crime.

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 9:15 p.m. Monday to the 8700 block of Beach Street, west of South Gate, where they found the officer with gunshot wounds, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“A black pickup truck approached the male adult victim, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer, and several suspects exited the vehicle,” according to a sheriff’s statement. “An argument ensued and an officer-involved shooting occurred. The pickup drove away in an unknown direction. Deputies from the Century Station responded to the location and transported the victim in their patrol car to a local area hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

A perimeter spanning several blocks was set up as deputies scoured the area for suspects.

Officer Fernando Arroyos, 27, was a three-year veteran of the department, assigned to the Olympic Division, according to the LAPD. Arroyos, an only child, is survived by his mother, father and stepfather.

“He had a promising future, a bright future, that was taken away viciously over a street robbery,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.

Authorities said Arroyos was in a car with his girlfriend and exited the vehicle when the confrontation occurred with the three suspects, and the officer is believed to have exchanged gunfire with the assailants. It’s unclear if any of the suspects were struck. The officer’s girlfriend was not injured.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, appearing at an LAUSD back-to-school event Tuesday morning, said Arroyos was a son of immigrants. The mayor said Arroyos was with his girlfriend at the time of the attack, looking for their first home.

“My heart is broken. Our city’s heart is broken, and certainly our LAPD family’s hearts all grieve,” Garcetti said. “I spoke with his mother, who’s an immigrant, last night, at the hospital and stepfather. … And because this happened outside the city of Los Angeles, the sheriff’s department is taking the lead on all investigations, with very strong support from our Robbery-Homicide officers as well.

“And so I just want to send my love again to the family, to the LAPD family,” he said. “This man died a hero trying to defend himself and his girlfriend.”

Earlier, Moore told reporters that authorities recovered the officer’s handgun and a firearm believed used by a suspect in the crime.

“We do believe that we have an officer-involved shooting here, that our officer exchanged gunfire with at least one of these suspects,” Moore said. “We do have our officer’s gun, and we have an additional weapon that we believe was responsible for this assault. … We know that we need the community’s help, but we also have every faith and confidence that we’ll be identifying the person or persons responsible for this terrible act and this grievous loss.”

Shortly before daybreak on Tuesday, the officer’s body was taken in a procession of vehicles from St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to the Los Angeles County coroner’s facility near downtown Los Angeles.

“Tonight, we mourn the loss of one of our officers who was shot (and) killed in an armed robbery attempt,” according to a tweet from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers. “The officer was off-duty. We pray for the officer’s family, and their fellow officers, during this time of pain and sorrow. This is an active investigation.”

According to Fox11, a wounded person was found in a vehicle in the area following the officer’s shooting, possibly with a gunshot wound, and investigators were working to determine if that person was a suspect in the crime.

Anyone with information was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

“I want to say that this morning we mourn the loss of one of our young officers, someone who lost his life last night while defending himself and his girlfriend,” Los Angeles Police Commission President William Briggs said during the commission’s meeting Tuesday morning. “On behalf of the Board of Police Commissioners, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to the officer’s family, friends and loved ones. He died at the hands of vicious powers, those who perpetrated this horrible act, they will be caught, they will be prosecuted.”

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