LA County Sheriff's Deputies Remain Hospitalized After 'Ambush' Shooting

Sheriff Alex Villanueva addressed the news media hours after two of his deputies were shot multiple times in Compton on Saturday, Sept. 12. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies remain in critical condition Sunday after being shot multiple times around 7 p.m. Saturday while sitting in a patrol car parked near the Willowbrook Metro station in Compton, according to authorities. Both underwent surgery Saturday night.

The Sheriff's Department has announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who shot the deputies. He is described as a male between the ages of 28-30.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said one deputy was a 31-year-old mother of a six-year-old son. The other deputy is a 24-year-old male. The sheriff said both had been sworn into the department 14 months ago.

Villanueva said they called in the shooting themselves and were alert when taken to St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood.

According to the sheriff's department, the deputies were "ambushed as they sat in their patrol vehicle."

"I want everyone to have a prayer for them for their recovery at this time," said Villanueva at a Saturday night press conference.

The sheriff, clad in a bullet proof vest, expressed anger at the shooting.

"It pisses me off," he said. "This was a cowardly act."

He also suggested that the anti-police sentiment expressed during recent protests could have played a role in motivating the shooter.

"Words have consequences," Villanueva said.

The ambush also means deputies will have to be more on guard, he said. "We are going to have to look for these things, use the buddy system."

Not long after the news conference ended, some protesters arrived and confronted sheriff's deputies.

One man taunted a deputy, shouting: "It's a celebration! It's a celebration!"

As a small group of men appeared to film deputies with their phones, at least one deputy pointed a weapon at them.

One man is heard saying: "If you want to fire the shot, fire the shot."

KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang was arrested as she tried to document the deputies' arrest of one protester. She was charged with obstruction and released from custody hours later.

DEPUTIES ARE 'ALIVE AT THIS TIME'

Capt. Kent Wegener, who commands the department's homicide bureau, said at the news conference that one of the deputies was able to give a description of the gunman, saying the person who fired the weapon was male. He also cautioned that the video released by the department came from a fish-eye lens and may distort the height and weight of the person.

The MTA's many cameras around the train station likely will help investigators identify the assailant, Wegener said.

At this time, Wegener said 14 homicide detectives are working the case, in addition to other crime scene analysts.

Sheriff's officials last night tweeted out video of a person walking up to a patrol car and firing into the passenger window. The footage is grainy and shows a person approaching the car, firing a gun and then running away. The tweet from the main account for the sheriff's headquarters said:

"The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation."

The video was retweeted by President Trump, who has nearly 86 million followers on Twitter and has taken a hard line on anti-police protests, pushing back on calls for reform. He has often talked about protesters in de-humanizing language, which was true again tonight. In his tweet Trump said: "Animals that must be hit hard!"

[Screenshot of the incident appears below. Warning: the video is not graphic but may be disturbing to watch.]

(Courtesy LASD)

The shooting, which occurred around 7 p.m. prompted an intense manhunt. Heavily armed deputies could be seen going door-to-door as darkness fell in the neighborhoods around the Metro station, where the shooting happened.

Deputies could also been seen using flashlights to search the ground in the immediate area, presumably looking for the assailant's gun or any other evidence that might lead them to the suspect.

SHOOTING COMES AMID PROTESTS

Use of force by law enforcement has been the focus of protests and calls by some activists to defund police departments since nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.

There have been numerous protests in recent days in L.A. over the fatal shootings of Black and Brown men by sheriff's deputies.

In the Compton area, two recent shooting by sheriff's deputies have sparked angry protests. In June, a deputy fatally shot Andres Guardado. An autopsy revealed Guardado, 18, had been shot five times in the back. The deputy claimed he had a gun. Last year, Ryan Twyman, 24, died after two deputies fired 34 times at him. Twyman was unarmed in his car.

A protest Saturday in Westmont, an unincorporated neighborhood northwest of Compton was peaceful. The families of Dijon Kizzee, 29, and Anthony Weber, 16 — both fatally shot by deputies in Westmont — spoke at that event.

This is a developing story. We will have more as information becomes available.

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