law enforcement

LAPD Officers Come Under Fire Second Time in Weeks

Twice in a month, Los Angeles police officers have come under fire, and then, without returning fire, succeeded in safely arresting the suspects.

Wednesday night in Leimert Park, LAPD officers were responding to a wounded gunshot victim in a Third Avenue parking lot when multiple rounds were fired at them.

None of the officers was hit, but several bullets pierced a patrol car.

On Dec. 29 in the Westlake District, rookie officer Joy Park was wounded in the leg by a shot that police believe was fired by a gunman nearly 500 feet away. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck described that attack as an "ambush."

In the previous month there were three other incidents in which suspects either fired at officers, or threatened to do so, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Horace Frank, who oversees special operations.  

"It's very concerning for us," said Frank. He did not have the statistics to say whether the frequency of such threats to LAPD officers has increased, but said, "For me, it is absolutely too often."

Briefing reporters Thursday afternoon at LAPD headquarters, Frank and fellow deputy chiefs praised the courage and skills of officers for handling such situations, and arresting the suspects, without use of lethal force.  

What prompted the shooting at the officers in Leimert Park was not immediately clear.

"As they got up to the victim, they heard numerous gunshots," said Phil Tingirides, LAPD deputy chief for South Bureau. "Their immediate reaction was the victim. They immediately grabbed the victim and extracted him from danger."

The man was treated and released.

Officers determined the suspect was inside a garage, called in SWAT, and police negotiators attempting to convince him to surrender, a process that would go on several hours.

The suspect uses a wheelchair and has mental health issues and is prone to erratic behavior, neighbors said.

The standoff lasted until 5 a.m., when police finally sent tear gas into the garage, and took the man into custody. He was identified as Amir Amad, and was booked for attempted murder of police officers. His firearm was an "AK-47 style assault weapon," police said.

The outcome without loss of life was praised by community members.

"It's a blessing," said Lamaj Smaii, whose family has a business on nearby Martin Luther King Boulevard. "The police department are able to resolve issues like this without killing someone, you know, it's a lot better for the community."

Stephen Sanders, a retired social worker who keeps up with the community-police advisory board, agreed.

"The history of this area is that sometimes police shoot and take lives," he said. "This is a good example of that not happening. So I'm encouraged that police showed some restraint."

In the case of the Dec. 29 attack, Park and her training officer were outside their patrol car conducting an investigation when they came under fire, police said. Witnesses pointed out the suspected shooter to other arriving officers.  The man put down his gun and surrendered, police said.

Ivan Castillo, 27, was charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, and another count of attempted murder of the man who was near officers when the gunfire erupted, officials said. Castillo was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, but it was postponed.

Park has been released from the hospital and is now recovering at home and eager to return to duty, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos.

Since the 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed Michael Ferguson, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri, law enforcement, including the LAPD, faced increasing scrutiny over use of deadly force.

Among the LAPD incidents that have been challenged are a 2015 Skid Row confrontation with a homeless man, Charley "Africa" Keunang. While grappling with officers, Keunang was shot to death. An officer said Keunang was trying to grab his sidearm.

Last year, the LAPD Commission formally adopted "de-escalation" as a tactic to be used by officers when possible as a means of keeping incidents from escalating to the point lethal force might be used.

A Skid Row confrontation with an armed suspect Wednesday was resolved without use of lethal force, according to Arcos.

He said an officer was alerted to a disturbing woman with a knife who was threatening people. The officer found the woman and told her to drop the knife, but she did not do so and continued to hold it menacingly.

The officer drew her sidearm and continued to engage the woman. Finally after several minutes, she dropped the knife, but then lunged at the officer, and took her to the ground.

But with a citizen's help, the officer was able to subdue the disturbed woman, and place her under arrest, neither seriously hurt.

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