COMPTON — The investigation into the ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Sept. 12 is continuing as doctors made plans to transfer the injured deputies from St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to a long-term care facility.
Both deputies remain in the ICU unit at St. Francis, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
“We’re trying to see if we can transfer them to a place where they can get long-term care, but we obviously have concerns about the COVID and security concerns, so that’s going to be an ongoing issue that we are going to have to address,” the sheriff said Sept. 16.
No suspects have been identified in the attack on the deputies, although some reports circulating online implied that an armed carjacking suspect arrested Sept. 15 in Lynwood could be the wanted gunman.
Villanueva was asked why that suspect — Deonte Murray, 36 — was being held on $2 million bail, and if the suspect was related to the deputies’ shooting. The sheriff did not directly address the latter part of the question.
“[He] was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, and carjacking,” Villanueva said. “And he actually shot the victim with an AR-15, and stole the vehicle. So that, itself, is going to necessitate the higher bail. And he is (an) extremely dangerous person, and thankfully, he was arrested without incident — without, at least, anybody being injured.
“We continue doing a very wide-scale search and investigation on who is responsible for the ambush, and we’re chasing all leads,” Villanueva added. “And right now, it’s a lot of work we have to do; and we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Earlier in the week, Villanueva said investigators were “working day and night to identify and arrest these cowards,” referencing the gunman and a possible getaway driver.
A GoFundMe page set up for the two deputies had raised $531,428 toward the page’s new goal of $750,000 as of Sept. 16. The page, which was started by sheriff’s Detective Keegan McInnis, can be found at http://ow.ly/N3q430r9VTq.
The deputies remained hospitalized following surgery, and were last reported in stable condition.
“Fortunately, they were spared any injury to a vital organ that would have jeopardized their life immediately,” Villanueva said Sept. 14. But he added that the pair — described only as a 24-year-old man and a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy — have a long road to recovery. Both deputies were sworn in just 14 months ago.
The county Board of Supervisors formally ratified a $100,000 reward offer Sept. 15. Villanueva, speaking at the board meeting, said the reward had been matched and exceeded by private donors.
“I am honored & pleased to announce that a surgeon who personally knows how difficult and long the recovery will be for the two deputies, has donated $50,000 from his own funds,” the sheriff tweeted Sept. 16. “This surgeon from Wyoming wants everyone to know that this horrific attack didn’t just affect those in Los Angeles, but it affected everyone in the United States who care about our law enforcement officers.”
The county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it was adding $25,000 to the reward, noting that the deputies were working for the Transit Services Bureau at the time of the shooting.
Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas authored the reward motion.
Ridley-Thomas urged those who know the gunman to contact the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Anonymous tips can be left for L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or at http://lacrimestoppers.org.
“We simply cannot tolerate this kind of lawlessness,” Ridley-Thomas said.
The deputies were ambushed around 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in their patrol car, down the street from the Compton Sheriff’s Station, when they were shot multiple times by a lone suspect.
Capt. Kent Wegener, who heads the Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit, said he had more than two dozen deputies canvassing the area looking for the suspect.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown released a statement calling the shooting “devastating.”
“Both deputies and their families will remain in our prayers,” Brown said. “The city will be working with the Sheriff’s Department as they search to apprehend the individual responsible for this act of violence.”
Surveillance video showed the suspect approaching the patrol vehicle from behind, walking up to the passenger side of the vehicle, pulling out a handgun and firing through the passenger side window. The gunman is then seen running away.
The shooter was described by the sheriff’s department as a “male Black, 28- to 30-years-old, wearing dark clothing, who was last seen heading northbound on Willowbrook Avenue in a black four-door sedan.”
Villanueva lashed out at protesters who showed up at the hospital following the shooting, shouting anti-law-enforcement chants, expressing hope that the deputies die. One witness told ABC7 some protesters tried to force their way into the emergency room while shouting “death to the police.”
“They were chanting that they wish the deputies died,” Villanueva told KNX. “And I don’t even know how to be begin to describe that, other than repulsive, reprehensible.”
The shooting came on the heels of a series of combative protests outside the sheriff’s South Los Angeles Station, with demonstrators condemning the Aug. 31 fatal shooting by two sheriff’s deputies of 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee in the Westmont area. Those demonstrations led to more than three dozen arrests, with the protesters accusing deputies of using excessive force and Villanueva saying demonstrators triggered the violence by hurling objects at sheriff’s deputies.
In the wake of the shooting, Villanueva and the sheriff’s department are taking criticism over the arrest of a KPCC/LAist reporter while deputies were working to quell the protest outside the hospital. Video from the scene showed deputies pinning reporter Josie Huang to the ground and arresting her.
The sheriff’s department claimed she didn’t have proper media credentials and was “interfering with a lawful arrest.” Villanueva said Huang got “right up on the shoulder” of a deputy trying to make an arrest, and saying her actions were more “activism” than journalism.
Video from Huang’s cell phone has since surfaced, appearing to contradict the department’s description of events. KPCC reported that the video shows Huang repeatedly identifying herself as a reporter, shouting “KPCC,” and saying, “You’re hurting me” and crying out in apparent pain.
Inspector General Max Huntsman is opening an investigation into the incident.
City News Service contributed to this story.