A pregnant 33-year-old woman had just arrived at her Sunland home on March 20 when three men surrounded her car. In what police call a random attack, she was punched, stabbed 11 times and carjacked before the assailants made a chaotic getaway.
Hours later, two of the suspects were arrested miles away at a home east of downtown Los Angeles. The next day, officers took three more people into custody after a traffic stop.
The arrests in the violent ambush were made after officers obtained security camera video of the crime and pieced together a trail of information provided by investigators with LAPD's gang enforcement detail.
At a Wednesday news conference, LAPD detective Armando Acero said the carjacking and stabbing appeared to be crimes of opportunity. The reputed gang members were in the neighborhood about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles for an illegal drug deal when they saw the woman arrive home, he said.
"They saw the opportunity to take the vehicle from this lady," Acero said. "She happened to be there at the wrong time. They noticed she was alone."
One of three men who approached her asked to use her cellphone. When she refused, he punched her and pulled her out of the car.
She suffered 11 stab wounds before the attackers drove off in her car, then crashed it into parked vehicles. The suspects abandoned the stolen car, but escaped in a getaway car parked nearby.
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The woman, who was 12 weeks pregnant, was hospitalized in critical condition. She is expected to recover, police said Wednesday. The victim, identified in a GoFundMe page post as a first-grade teacher, lost two teeth and suffered a punctured lung.
"Because she's pregnant, she tried to protect herself from the stabbing, she used her hand, so she has a lot of stabs on her hand," said husband Greg Maga, shortly after the attack.
After studying security camera video, investigators obtained an image of the getaway car -- a white Volkswagen Jetta. A check of the license plate revealed it had been impounded by gang enforcement officers.
Based on the video and witness statements, investigators identified two of the suspects and arrested two men at a home in the Boyle Heights area just hours after the crime. Several stolen items were recovered at the home, police said.
"We believe that this incident was an isolated incident," said LAPD Capt. David Grimes. "We have not had similar crimes in the area, and the victim appears to have been chosen at random."
On March 22, officers arrested three more suspects found in the white Jetta during a traffic stop.
The five alleged gang members face charges that include willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder, carjacking and second-degree robbery.