Witness John Kim describes the scene at an officer-involved shooting right in the middle of a Koreatown gas station parking lot. The shooting occurred after a slow-speed police pursuit. Beverly White has details from Koreatown.
Streets in Koreatown remained closed early Friday for an investigation into an officer-involved shooting after a pursuit Thursday night that wound through busy Hollywood streets before police fired multiple shots into the suspect’s vehicle parked in a gas station parking lot.
The suspect drove into a Shell gas station on Vermont Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, where he pulled up next to a vehicle parked at a pump. That’s when police fired into the vehicle. The suspect died at the scene.
[UPDATE, Friday 7:30 a.m.] The suspect's vehicle and investigators remained at the scene early Friday. Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue both reopened in time for the morning commute.
Two people appeared to be fueling up at the pump immediately next to where the shooting occurred.
The driver of the vehicle parked next to the suspect's car could be seen crouching against the gas pump, his arms covering his head as shots were fired.
The pursuit began around 6:15 p.m. in El Sereno after a suspected carjacking at a gas station near Valley Boulevard and Eastern Avenue, according to Los Angeles Police.
The suspect reportedly took a blue-green 1993 Saturn.
That was the second carjacking the suspect was involved in Thursday, said Commander Andrew Smith. Police believe he stole a car at gunpoint from a 30-year-old woman in San Bernardino around 3 p.m.
Both car owners were uninjured, police said.
The chase lasted about an hour and took police on the 101 Freeway before the suspect drove onto Hollywood surface streets. At times, the streets ahead of the pursuit were completely clear and it appeared to encounter minimal traffic.
Aerial communications described the suspect as armed, but police would not confirm if the suspect had a weapon.
The chase travelled at about 40 mph, and the driver appeared to a stop at most red lights and slowly moved through intersections.
While driving west on Hollywood Boulevard, the suspect slowed down to a crawl past a corner where pedestrians appeared to be recording him with their cellphones.
The chase moved through Hollywood Boulevard before heading south on Highland Avenue.
While on Highland Avenue, officers emerged from their vehicles when it appeared the suspect came to a stop. But when the light turned green, the pursuit resumed.
The driver made it past Sixth Avenue before turning left onto Wilshire Boulevard.
Aerial communications reported that police waived the option to PIT the vehicle – that is, turn it backwards by driving into its back bumper – because the suspect had previously pointed what appeared to be a gun at the officers.
At least ten LAPD cars surrounded the gas station after the shooting. It was unclear immediately how many shots were fired, but it appeared that multiple rounds entered the suspect’s vehicle – blowing out glass onto the surrounding pavement.
"They got out of their cars, pulled out their guns and said, 'Freeze,'" said witness John Kim. "They told her to get out of the car, but she didn't."
Police dragged the suspect's body several feet from the car, where it lay covered in a pink tarp.
Witness John Kim said officers repeatedly yelled for the suspect to get out of the car.
Police justified the use of deadly force Thursday night.
"There were patrons inside and outside," Smith said. "He pulled up his revolver and pointed it at the individuals inside the store."
The streets around the scene and the Vermont/Wilshire Metro station will remained closed into the night.