Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are in critical condition Sunday with multiple gunshot wounds after a gunman approached their patrol car outside a Compton train station and struck them repeatedly with gunfire.
The attack occurred at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Line station at Willowbrook Avenue and Palmer Street.
“Two deputies were ambushed in a cowardly fashion,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a Saturday press conference outside the hospital where the two deputies were being treated. “The shooting was without warning or provocation. “It pisses me off and it dismays me.”
Surveillance video posted to the department’s Twitter account showed a man approaching the patrol vehicle from behind and walking as if he was going to continue past the vehicle before turning, walking up to the passenger side and firing, then running back the way he came.
The sheriff's department launched an overnight manhunt for the suspect, going door-to-door in some parts of the Compton area.
“I am devastated to learn of the tragedy that occurred in our city tonight,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown said Saturday, in an official social media statement pledging the city's cooperation with the sheriff's department to track down the shooter. “Both deputies and their families will remain in our prayers.”
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The wounded deputies managed to radio for help, said sheriff's Capt. Kent Wegener, who was leading the investigation. Responding deputies rushed their wounded comrades to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where they underwent surgery.
The deputies were described as a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy whose husband was at the hospital. The other was a 24-year-old man whose parents and girlfriend were also at the hospital, Villanueva said. The sheriff said he swore-in both deputies just 14 months ago.
“Once a week, an officer is felled by the felonious act of another person. This is just a grim reminder of that,” the sheriff said. “Actions, words have consequences and our job is not getting any easier because people don't like law enforcement.”
While deputies maintained a vigil at the hospital, 14 homicide detectives, crime scene analysts, technicians and other deputies were at the Blue Line station in Compton gathering leads and evidence and conducting a massive manhunt in the area around the station, which was shut down for the investigation.
The FBI announced that it was offering resources to help with the investigation.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted, “Sending prayers of healing to the @LASDHQ deputies shot in a horrific attack near the Blue Line in the City of Compton. Deputies across the county bravely work to keep our communities and Metro riders safe. We strongly condemn this cowardly ambush & stand prepared to offer aid.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore also shared his thoughts in a tweet late Saturday.
“Tonight we pray for these two guardians to survive,” Moore wrote. “I recognize and acknowledge we live in troubled times. But we must, as a community, work thru our differences while loudly and resoundingly condemning violence. Blessed are the Peacemakers.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas tweeted, “Thank God both deputies made it through surgery and are now in critical but stable condition. Our thoughts and prayers for them and their families will continue to be amplified. Lawlessness of this sort cannot be tolerated. Let the perpetrator be swiftly and properly apprehended.”
President Donald Trump retweeted the shooting video and wrote, “Animals that must be hit hard!”
The sheriff's department said protesters had temporarily blocked St. Francis Hospital's emergency room entrance as some people gathered outside the hospital, quoting one phrase shouted out as “We hope they die.”
There was a confrontation between the LASD and protesters, which led to the temporary closure of streets around the hospital.
Local civil rights leaders, who have often questioned shootings and other tactics by the sheriff's department, focused their energy on condemning Saturday's attack.
“I and other civil rights leaders have long been in the forefront in the fight against police violence and for police reform, including justice for Dijon Kizzee and other victims of dubious shootings by L.A. County Sheriffs,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said in a statement late Saturday. “However, we have been equally strong in condemning any violence against law enforcement.”
“This flies in the face of the tradition of civil rights protest, which has always opposed any form of violence or attacks in retaliation for injustice. This is totally counterproductive to the aims and goals of the civil rights movement, which respects all lives. We pray for the recovery and safety of these officers,” Hutchinson said.'
With suspect details so limited, the sheriff’s department is focused on identifying and finding the shooter. They have asked anyone who has information about the shooting to come forward.
Anyone with information was encouraged 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-TIPS (8477) or online at http://lacrimestoppers.org.