Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Criminal Justice

2 Ambushed LA Sheriff’s Deputies Join the Fight Against Ghost Guns

A screenshot from a video released by the Sheriff's Department shows a man wearing shorts with his hands together pointing at the passenger window of a parked black and white Sheriff's SUV.
A screenshot from the video of the incident released by the Sheriff's Department.
(Courtesy LASD)
LAist relies on your reader support, not paywalls.
Freely accessible local news is vital. Please power our reporters and help keep us independent with a donation today during our fall member drive.

Two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who were badly wounded last year in an ambush by a man using a “ghost gun” have sued the company that sold the parts for the weapon.

Their lawsuit claims Nevada-based Polymer80 Inc. acted negligently by failing to take “reasonable steps” to make sure purchasers are legally allowed to possess firearms “despite knowing their deadly products are especially attractive to criminals.”

The suit notes that "a central purpose of ghost guns is that they are untraceable," while adding that "the firearm used in the attack ... has been identified as a Polymer80 handgun, model PF940c."

The lawsuit alleges that “Polymer80’s business practice of selling gun-building kits without background checks or serial numbers violates federal and state law and is negligent,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director for Everytown Law, which is representing the deputies.

Support for LAist comes from

“Polymer80’s reckless practices, we allege, facilitated a person with a long felony criminal history being able to get his hands on an unserialized gun that he then used to shoot two Sheriff’s deputies multiple times,” he said.

A Polymer80 spokesman declined to comment.

The case is one of three suits in Southern California against the ghost gun industry that Everytown Law is involved with, along with a suit filed by a survivor of the Saugus High School shooting against a different ghost gun kit manufacturer and a suit filed by the city of Los Angeles against Polymer80.

Polymer80 Is By Far The Biggest Seller Of Ghost Guns

Ghost gun kits pose a huge public safety risk, allowing people who cannot pass a background check to purchase and manufacture their own firearms, said UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, who authored “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.”

Support for LAist comes from

Polymer80 is by far the largest seller of ghost gun kits and components in the country, according to the lawsuit. It cites data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that found more than 86% of ghost guns seized in 2019 were assembled from the company’s components.

In 2020, the LAPD recovered more than 700 firearms with Polymer80 components, according to the lawsuit.

The brazen Saturday night attack last September on Deputies Claudia Apolinar and Emmanuel Perez-Perez shocked much of L.A. Prosecutors say Deonte Murray snuck up on the deputies as they sat in their parked patrol car at the Compton Metro station. He allegedly fired from beside the car at close range with a .40 caliber handgun. Security video captured the shooting.

Investigators said Murray discarded a gun during a pursuit that matched the gun used in the assault. Murray has been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Apolinar was struck in the jaw. Perez-Perez was struck in the arm. Winkler said the deputies’ lawsuit may find a sympathetic ear in courts that often find in favor of gun manufacturers.

Support for LAist comes from

“Sheriff’s deputies are often very strong supporters of gun rights,” and judges may be more sympathetic to their lawsuit, said Winkler. “Everybody recognizes Sheriff’s deputies put their lives on the line” and judges and juries may say if law enforcement officers are being attacked with ghost guns it may be time to regulate them, he said.

Ghost Guns Are 'A Nationwide Public Health Emergency'

The proliferation of ghost guns “has become a nationwide public health emergency,” the lawsuit argues, “as these firearms have increasingly become weapons of choice for criminals.”

The suit cites ATF data that found from 2016 to 2020 there were approximately 23,906 suspected privately made ghost guns reported to the federal agency as having been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides.

The Biden Administration is attempting to regulate ghost guns. In May, the ATF issued a proposed rule that would expand the definition of a firearm to include guns that can be built at home, and would require those selling assembly kits to perform background checks.

Support for LAist comes from

In January, California enacted a law that only allows the sale of gun parts through licensed dealers in the state and requires background checks of buyers.

What questions do you have about criminal justice and public safety in Southern California?
Frank Stoltze covers a new movement for criminal justice reform at a time when not everybody shares the same vision.