John Cádiz Klemack
LA County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Gomez was pursuing two suspects Tuesday night when a passenger leaned out of the car and opened fire with an illegal AK-47 assault rifle. It happened hours before sheriff's officials were set to announce that crime in LA County is up. John Cádiz Klemack reports from San Fernando for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2013.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Gomez was involved in a pursuit Tuesday night when a passenger leaned out of the car and opened fire with an illegal AK-47 assault rifle.
"Any deputy that's in the department runs the risk of running into something like this," Gomez said. "I recognized it as an AK-47."
He and another deputy were on patrol in Lynwood when they heard a weapon being fired nearby, Gomez said.
The deputies drove toward the sound and found a gunshot victim in the street, and they also saw a car leaving the scene. After calling for medical assistance for the victim, the deputies started the chase.
"During the pursuit, the suspect in the passenger seat leaned out the car window and began to shoot at the pursuing deputies," said Deputy Irys Alvarez.
The pursued car stopped about a half mile away at Santa Fe Avenue and Pine Street, where the passenger jumped out and fled on foot, Parker said. Deputies continued chasing the car, which crashed at Alameda and Pine streets, about a mile away from where the passenger bailed.
Meanwhile, the shooting victim was hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds, Alvarez said. No deputies were injured.
The dramatic incident went down just hours before Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was to reveal this year’s crime statistics.
Violent crimes in the county increased by about 3 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to statistics released by the sheriff's department on Tuesday.
There were about 24 percent fewer violent crimes in 2012 compared to 2007. The number of homicides dropped 37 percent during the same five-year period.
The AK-47 used by the suspect in the Lynwood pursuit is illegal in California because of its 30-round magazine.
Gun shop owner Demtry Shknevsky showed NBC4 an assault rifle similar to the one used in the pursuit. However, it's a legal firearm, and it has a feature called a bullet button.
"You can't get your finger in there to take the magazine out," Shknevsky said, adding the button makes it more difficult to keep adding ammunition.
"You can buy these guns without the button in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, those states that allow those kinds of things," Shknevsky added.
That's one way the sheriff's department believes gang members in the LA area are getting their hands on illegal weapons.