Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds Sunday after a gunman approached their patrol car outside a Compton train station and fired into the vehicle.
The unprovoked attack occurred at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Metro A (Blue) Line station at Willowbrook Avenue and Palmer Street, Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters.
“Two deputies were ambushed in a cowardly fashion,” Villanueva said. “It pisses me off and it dismays me.”
Surveillance video showed a male, described as dark-skinned, approaching the patrol vehicle from behind and walking as if he was going to continue past the vehicle before turning, walking to the passenger side and firing, then running back the way he came.
The sheriff’s department launched an overnight manhunt for the suspect, going door-to-door in some parts of the Compton area.
“I am devastated to learn of the tragedy that occurred in our city tonight,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown said Saturday, pledging the city’s cooperation to track down the shooter. “Both deputies and their families will remain in our prayers.”
The wounded deputies managed to radio for help, said Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener, who was leading the investigation. Responding deputies rushed their wounded comrades to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where they underwent surgery.
The deputies were described as a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy whose husband was at the hospital. The other was a 24-year-old man whose parents and girlfriend were also at the hospital, Villanueva said. The sheriff said he swore-in both deputies himself 14 months ago.
“Once a week, an officer is felled by the felonious act of another person. This is just a grim reminder of that,” the sheriff said. “Actions, words have consequences and our job is not getting any easier because people don’t like law enforcement.”
While deputies maintain a vigil at the hospital, 14 homicide detectives, crime scene analysts, technicians and other deputies were at the A Line station in Compton gathering leads and evidence and conducting a massive manhunt in the area around the station, which was shut down for the investigation.
The FBI announced that it was offering resources to help with the investigation.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted, “Sending prayers of healing to the @LASDHQ deputies shot in a horrific attack near the Blue Line in the City of Compton. Deputies across the county bravely work to keep our communities and Metro riders safe. We strongly condemn this cowardly ambush & stand prepared to offer aid.”
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore also shared his support late Saturday.
“Tonight we pray for these two guardians to survive,” Moore wrote. “I recognize and acknowledge we live in troubled times. But we must, as a community, work thru our differences while loudly and resoundingly condemning violence. Blessed are the Peacemakers.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Compton, tweeted, “Thank God both deputies made it through surgery and are now in critical but stable condition. Our thoughts and prayers for them and their families will continue to be amplified. Lawlessness of this sort cannot be tolerated. Let the perpetrator be swiftly and properly apprehended.”
President Donald Trump retweeted the shooting video and wrote, “Animals that must be hit hard!”
The president added a tweet Sunday morning that called for the death penalty in the event the deputies don’t survive. “If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer. Only way to stop this!” he said.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted: “This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice. Violence of any kind is wrong; those who commit it should be caught and punished. Jill and I are keeping the deputies and their loved ones in our hearts and praying for a full recovery.”
The sheriff’s department said that protesters had temporarily blocked St. Francis Hospital’s emergency room entrance, quoting one phrase shouted out as “We hope they die.”
CBS2 confirmed the confrontation between the LASD and protesters, which led to the temporary closure of streets around the hospital.
Video from ABC7 showed at least five deputies were involved in pinning KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang to the ground and arresting her. Huang was released early Sunday.
She was credited with taking a photo of the sheriff during his press conference, as well as contributing to the publication’s coverage of a separate protest against the department earlier in the day.
“She didn’t have proper credentials,” said Deputy Juanita Navarro of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau, confirming deputies took Huang into custody on suspicion of obstruction of justice by “interfering with a lawful arrest.”
The arrest set off a digital skirmish between the NPR station’s news team and the sheriff’s department.
At 1:31 a.m. Sunday, KPCC executive editor Megan Garvey tweeted a video Huang filmed right before her arrest that showed a deputy pointing a weapon directly at a small group of protesters. Exactly one hour later, Navarro posted a tweet that said, “Don’t interfere with an arrest,” written seven times.
Just after 3 a.m. Sunday, Huang’s colleague Frank Stoltze retweeted a photo that appeared to show a press credential hanging from her neck while she was being hauled away.
Garvey later confirmed Huang would be charged with a misdemeanor.
Just before 5 a.m., Huang announced she’d been released from the Century Regional Detention Center and was on her way home, hinting that she has “thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest.”
Ridley-Thomas called for a probe of the arrest.
“We must continue pray for the two ambushed sheriff deputies and their families. We must also require that the Inspector General launch an immediate investigation into the arrest of @josie_huang,” he tweeted Sunday. “The Citizens Oversight Commission must convene a special meeting on this matter.”
Local civil rights leaders, who have criticized the department in recent weeks over the fatal Aug. 31 shooting of Dijon Kizzee, condemned Saturday’s attack on the deputies.
“I and other civil rights leaders have long been in the forefront in the fight against police violence and for police reform, including justice for Dijon Kizzee and other victims of dubious shootings by L.A. County Sheriffs,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said in a statement late Saturday. “However, we have been equally strong in condemning any violence against law enforcement.
“This flies in the face of the tradition of civil rights protest, which has always opposed any form of violence or attacks in retaliation for injustice. This is totally counterproductive to the aims and goals of the civil rights movement, which respects all lives. We pray for the recovery and safety of these officers.”
Meanwhile, Metro officials said Sunday that A Line trains were skipping the Compton station all day Sunday due to “police activity,” and bus shuttles would take passengers between the Artesia and Willowbrook/Rosa Parks stations.
With scarce details available about the suspect, Navarro appealed for assistance in capturing the shooter.
“We really need the public’s help in apprehending the suspect,” she said. “There’s a very dangerous individual free right now. Our main goal is utilizing all our resources to locate him — and we’re not going to stop.”
Anyone with information was encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be left for L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or at lacrimestoppers.org.