Sepulveda Pass
Photo by John Schreiber.

A man who allegedly opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers investigating a stalled car on the southbound San Diego (405) Freeway was shot by the officers Thursday, leading to an hours-long closure of one of the nation’s busiest freeways as police investigated the gunfire, snarling traffic throughout the region.

CHP Officer Jose Barrios told reporters the shooting occurred around 2:50 a.m. on the southbound 405 near Skirball Center Drive.

Michael Northcott, 37, whose city of residence was not known, was taken to a hospital in unknown condition, the CHP reported. It was unclear what charges he would face, the CHP reported.

According to Barrios, officers saw a damaged, red Ford Mustang stopped on the right shoulder of the freeway with its airbags deployed, and they stopped to investigate.

When they approached the vehicle, they spotted a man — later identified as Northcott — standing nearby, Barrios said. When the man saw the officers, “that’s when he reached into the vehicle, pulled out a gun and started shooting at the officers.”

The officers returned fire, striking the man, who was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in unknown condition. Barrios said early Thursday afternoon that while the suspect’s condition was unknown, he was still alive. The officers were not injured, although Barrios said some rounds struck the officers’ patrol car.

It was unknown how many shots were fired, but images from the scene showed dozens of evidence markers on the ground near the Mustang, each likely indicating a spent bullet casing.

As the investigation began, both sides of the 405 Freeway were closed, although the northbound lanes were opened about 5 a.m.

Southbound traffic, however, came to a halt as the closure lingered throughout the morning rush hour. The freeway was quickly transformed into a parking lot, with thousands of motorists stranded as they attempted to travel from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside. Motorists able to escape the freeway scrambled to find alternate routes — including Sepulveda Boulevard and mountain passes — all of which were quickly overwhelmed with traffic.

Some motorists reported being stuck in traffic for hours, unable to find alternate routes.

Los Angeles International Airport officials said FlyAway bus service that carries passengers from Van Nuys to the airport was delayed by at least 90 minutes.

Two lanes of the southbound freeway were finally reopened around 9 a.m., but the freeway backup stretched for miles. The remaining freeway lanes finally reopened around 1 p.m.

Barrios said it was still unclear how the Mustang was originally damaged, noting that it would take a significant collision to cause the airbags to deploy. He said it was unclear if the man owned the car, but the vehicle was not believed to have been stolen.

There was also no indication of why the suspect opened fire at the officers.

Witnesses or anyone with further information on the case were urged to contact the CHP West Valley Area office at 818-888-0980.

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