The shooting of two Los Angeles county sheriff’s deputies in an apparent ambush prompted a manhunt, strong reaction from Donald Trump and protests outside the hospital where the wounded deputies were treated.
The deputies were shot while sitting in a patrol car at a Metro rail station, around 7pm on Saturday, not far from the the Compton sheriff’s department. They were able to radio for help, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
“The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation,” the department said, publishing to social media video that showed a person open fire through the passenger-side window.
The 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy both underwent surgery, Villanueva said, adding that both graduated from the academy 14 months ago. The female deputy has a six-year-old son, an official said.
“Hopefully they can both heal from this,” Villanueva said.
The video sparked a strong reaction from the president, who tweeted: “Animals that must be hit hard!” On Sunday morning, from Nevada, Trump added: “If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer. Only way to stop this!”
The California governor, Gavin Newsom, announced a death penalty moratorium in March last year, a temporary reprieve for 737 inmates on death row.
Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, tweeted: “This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice. Violence of any kind is wrong; those who commit it should be caught and punished.”
The LA sheriff’s department is facing national scrutiny over allegations that some deputies have operated as “criminal gangs” and as local protests continue over killings of Black and Latino residents by law enforcement officers.
Across Los Angeles county, between the end of May and early September, officers fatally shot 11 people, according to Black Lives Matter LA, which tracks killings. Officers have killed more than 1,000 people in Los Angeles county over the past two decades, according to Youth Justice Coalition (YJC), an activist group.
The LA department has been responsible for at least eight civilian deaths since May. Deputies have shot and killed two people in the past two weeks, including a man in Compton on Thursday.
On 31 August, deputies killed Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old Black man, after ordering him to stop on his bicycle, an incident that prompted renewed protests. In June Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard, was shot five times in the back by a sheriff’s deputy as he ran away in Compton.
The department has faced scrutiny for decades, over allegations of violence, abuse and corruption. Former sheriff Lee Baca began serving prison time earlier this year, for his attempts to undermine a federal investigation into claims of abuses in the county jail system.
A deputy alleged this summer that the department in Compton was home to a gang of violent deputies who violated civilians’ rights and used excessive force. In early September, a congressional subcommittee asked the Department of Justice to investigate, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On Saturday night, protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where the injured deputies were treated.
“To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling ‘We hope they die’ referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,” the sheriff’s department tweeted. “People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.”
Villanueva expressed frustration over anti-police sentiment.
“It pisses me off,” he said. “It dismays me at the same time.”
A radio reporter near the protest was taken into custody. The sheriff’s department said the reporter interfered with the arrest of a male protester, “did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person”.
Reporter Josie Huang, of the KPCC station, said she was released from county jail on Sunday morning.
“I have seen [the sheriff’s department’s] tweets and have thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest,” she wrote on Twitter.
The executive editor of the station, Megan Garvey, expressed outrage and said her reporter appeared to be wearing her credentials and had shouted her KPCC affiliation.
A man who “refused to comply and cooperate” was also arrested, the department said.
Capt Kent Wegener said officers were blanketing the area in search of the suspect.
“We have a very, very generic description,” he said.
Villanueva said the only current description of the gunman was a “dark-skinned male”.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, LA mayor Eric Garcetti said: “Of course there’s an important conversation going on about policing in this country, but these are folks who put their lives on the line for us, and we will find justice for them. And I pray for their recovery … and I hope that everybody listening today will unify.”