A shootout between pedestrians and two patrol officers on Thursday ended with a lawman in the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and a massive manhunt for two suspects.
Police shut down roughly 72-square blocks in South LA on Thursday afternoon to scour the area. More than 100 officers swarmed the neighborhood, and six K-9 units were brought in for a painstaking house-by-house search.
By 9:30 p.m. there were no arrests and LAPD reopened streets so people were could move about and return to their neighborhoods. Detectives continued to work the crime scene on 70th Street about 75 feet east of Western Avenue..
"We still have considerable investigation to do," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in a news conference outside of California Hospital Medical Center, where the injured officer was undergoing treatment.
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The officer was in "stable" condition after suffering gunshot wounds to his hand and elbow and bruises on his chest, said Dr. Gudata Hinika, chief of trauma at the hospital. His female partner was not shot.
A bullet-proof vest may have saved him from more serious harm, Hinika said.
"He has a contusion to his chest, but no major injury to his chest," he said. "He is in a good spirit and he is talking to his family and police officers."
Police are urging residents to call 800-222-8477 if they see anyone trying to enter their property.
As of early evening police had several people in custody but no arrests had been made.
Beck identified two suspects:
- A black man, 18-25 years old, between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing about 150 pounds, with short, natural hair and wearing a white T-shirt with blue stripes on the sleeve.
- A black man, 18-25 years old, between 5 feet 7 inches tall and 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 140 pounds. He was wearing a white T-shirt with black shorts.
The shooting occurred at around 2:45 p.m. when two officers from the 77th Street Station investigating a rash of car thefts approached two people near 70th Street and Western Avenue, Beck said.
One suspect was walking; the other was on a bicycle. Before the officers reached the suspects, one of the men opened fire, Beck said.
The wounded officer's partner returned fire, possibly hitting one of the suspects, Beck said.
"Our initial belief is that they went to initiate a detention and before that detention was even begun they were hit with a hail of gunfire," Beck said.
"As they (the officers) stopped their vehicle and exited their car, one of these individuals pulled out a handgun and immediately started firing at our officer," Cmdr. Andy Smith said. "Our officer was struck multiple times and was injured and is now in stable condition at a local hospital."
At a news conference outside of the hospital Thursday afternoon, Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised the officers involved in the attack and emphasized the recent upswing in violence directed at police officers.
"I want to underscore a point that in the past several days, this is the third time people have tried to murder a Los Angeles police officer," said Beck.
Initial reports suggested that the partner of the wounded officer may have injured a potential suspect, who was taken to the hospital. But Beck later identified the individual as either a suspect or a "person of interest" and said the cause of the injuries was unclear.
The police chief and the mayor visited the officer, a married seven-year veteran of the force, in the hospital.
"This incident highlights just how dangerous the job of an LA police officer is," said Villaraigosa outside the hospital. "The officer is doing well. He is stable."
Beck declined to name the wounded officer but said he was married. They are "a very young couple, strong guy," Beck said. "He's going to be fine."
Late Thursday night a transit spokeswoman said the shooting would cause delays on four Metro bus routes through Friday morning.
Buses on Metro Lines 111, 207, 305 and 757 will be delayed for up to 30 minutes as they run on detoured routes near the shooting scene area, said Helen Ortiz Gilstrap of Metro. The detours will remain in effect until 5 a.m. Friday.