LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities continued the manhunt Monday for a gunman who shot and wounded two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in their squad car — an apparent ambush that drew an angry response from the president and sparked an anti-police protest outside the hospital where the deputies were being treated.
The 31-year-old female officer, who is a mother of a 6-year old boy, and 24-year-old male officer underwent surgery Saturday evening, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a late-night news conference. Both graduated from the police academy 14 months ago, he said.
In a Facebook interview with the City of Refuge Church in Los Angeles on Sunday, Villanueva said the female deputy provided medical care to the other deputy and called in on the radio that they were shot.
“God bless, it looks like they’re going to be able to recover,” said Villanueva. “They survived the worst.”
The officers were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station and were able to radio for help, the sheriff said. Villanueva, whose department has come under fire during recent protests over racial unrest, expressed frustration over anti-police sentiment as he urged people to pray for the deputies.
“It pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time,” he said.
The department tweeted video of the shooting that shows a person open fire through the passenger-side window of the patrol car.
“The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation,” the department stated.
The suspect is described as a Black man between the ages of 28-30, last seen wearing dark clothing according to the sheriff’s department. The county is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect.
The video sparked reaction from President Donald Trump, who on Twitter called the suspect “Animals that must be hit hard!”
His 2020 presidential election rival Joe Biden also took to Twitter to slam the shooting.
“This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice,” the former vice president tweeted. “Violence of any kind is wrong; those who commit it should be caught and punished.”
On Saturday, a handful of protesters gathered outside the hospital where the injured officers are being treated. The protesters tried to provoke deputies stationed outside and at one point were prevented from entering the emergency room, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez with the Churches in Action group told TV station KABC.
“Unacceptable behavior. The hospital should be a sanctuary, we should leave hospitals alone,” he said. Mendez and members of his group had gathered nearby to pray for the wounded officers.
“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.”
A radio reporter who was near the protest scene was taken into custody. The sheriff’s department later tweeted that the reporter interfered with the arrest of a male protester.
“The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person,” the department stated.
After being released, public radio station KPCC reporter Josie Huang said on Twitter that she had seen the statements from sheriff’s officials and had “thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest.”
A video Huang said she shot moments before her arrest showed two men carrying red, black and green flags and shouting at deputies outside the hospital while a few other people stood by recording on their cellphones.
Huang and another unidentified person were arrested for obstruction of justice according to the sheriff’s department. Video footage shared by Huang and other news outlets from outside St. Francis Medical Center in the city of Lynwood showed deputies wrestle Huang to the ground and handcuff her before taking her to a police cruiser.
“I was filming an arrest when suddenly deputies shout ‘back up,’” Huang wrote on Twitter after she was released from police custody. “Within seconds, I was getting shoved around. There was nowhere to back up.”
In the video footage, Huang can be heard identifying herself as a reporter and repeats her radio station’s call letters. After her phone was knocked to the ground the video continues as Huang calls out, “You guys are hurting me.”
Huang said she was held in custody for five hours and officers did not let her put her face mask back up while she was handcuffed.
LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes south LA, requested that the Inspector General launch an investigation into Huang’s arrest.
On Monday, Villanueva told LA news station KTLA that Huang was wearing an ID issued by her company and not “a press pass.”
“She’s yelling ‘KPCC, KPCC,’ but unfortunately, that’s not a household name,” Villanueva said.
The executive editor of the station, Megan Garvey, expressed outrage over the arrest and said her reporter appeared to be wearing her credentials and had shouted being with KPCC, an NPR affiliate. NPR’s editorial director Nancy Barnes said the network was “appalled” by the arrest of a reporter doing her job.
Meanwhile, the search for the gunman continues.
Capt. Kent Wegener said officers were blanketing the area in search of the suspect seen on the video opening fire with a pistol.
“We have a very, very generic description,” he said.
The incident happened around 7 p.m. a short distance from the Compton sheriff’s station south of downtown Los Angeles.
The U.S. Justice Department would assist sheriff’s investigators with “all federal tools available,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said on Twitter.
Protesters have railed against the LA Sheriff’s Department for weeks over recent shootings by officers, including the killing of a man on a bicycle last month.
“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,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Sunday.
By CHRISTOPHER WEBER Associated Press
Courthouse News reporter Nathan Solis contributed to the report.