COMPTON — A manhunt continued Sept. 14 for a gunman who brazenly shot two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in a patrol SUV outside the Martin Luther King Transit Center Sept. 12 with a $100,000 reward on the table for information leading to the suspect.
Two sheriff deputies were ambushed around 7 p.m. The deputies were sitting in their patrol car, down the street from the Compton Sheriff’s Station, when they were shot multiple times by a lone suspect who remains at large.
Both of the deputies graduated from the Sheriff’s Academy 14 months ago, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a late-night news conference after the shooting. One is 31 years old and the mother of a 6-year-old son. The other is a 24-year-old male deputy. Both underwent surgery.
“It pisses me off and it dismays me at the same time,” Villanueva said. “We’re stretched with civil unrest in South LA, Bobcat Fire and a situation in downtown Los Angeles and deputies are working long hours.
The identities of the deputies have not been released. However, the Sheriff’s Department released video of the incident and one of the wounded deputies described the suspect as a “dark-skinned male.”
Capt. Kent Wegener, who heads the Sheriff’s Department’s the homicide unit, said he had more than two dozen deputies canvassing the area looking for the suspect.
The deputies, were able to radio for help and were transported to nearby St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood.
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.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a $100,000 reward for the apprehension of the suspect at its Sept. 15 meeting.
The deputies, members of the Transit Services Bureau, remained hospitalized in critical condition Sept. 14, but Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was hopeful about their prognosis.
“Fortunately, they were spared any injury to a vital organ that would have jeopardized their life immediately,” Villanueva told KNX Newsradio. But the sheriff said the deputies have a long road to recovery.
No suspects have been identified, despite some online social media chatter to the contrary. The sheriff’s department issued a statement early Sept. 14 saying the information circulating online “is erroneous information and there are no named or wanted suspects at this time.”
Villanueva told KNX investigators are “working day and night to identify and arrest these cowards,” referencing the gunman and a possible getaway driver.
Surveillance video shows 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.”
Relatives of the injured deputies — including the husband of the female deputy and the girlfriend and parents of the male deputy — were at the hospital.
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.