LOS ANGELES (CN) — Authorities announced attempted murder charges Wednesday against a 36-year old man in connection with the Sep. 12 ambush and shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officers.
The shooting of the officers — who were sitting in their squad car outside a public transit station in Compton, California — launched a region-wide manhunt by law enforcement agencies and condemnation from both U.S. presidential candidates.
In a press conference Wednesday, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Deonte Lee Murray of Compton has been charged with two counts each of premediated attempted murder of police officers and is in police custody.
Murray was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Lacey said Murray is believed to be the man seen in surveillance video from the area walking up to the passenger-side window of the patrol car and firing at the officers.
After the shooting, a female officer is seen in the video clutching her head while stumbling out of the squad car and dragging her partner to safety behind a concrete pillar.
The officers survived their injuries and are recovering at home following reconstructive surgery, according to officials.
Lacey told reporters Wednesday the officers were targeted for “wearing a badge” but would not comment on why her office has determined the attack was premeditated.
“Now it’s our turn to seek justice on their behalf,” Lacey said of the injured officers. “We believe the evidence is strong and supports the filing decision.”
Murray faces a maximum life sentence if convicted on the current charges, Lacey said.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters the shooting was a “cowardly act” that was relentlessly investigated by the department.
“Sometimes from the worst comes the best, and this is an example of that,” Villanueva said. “Justice will be served.”
Villanueva said previously the shooting highlighted officers’ occupational hazards and that he was frustrated by police accountability activists who protested outside the hospital the two officers were taken to.
The sheriff, who faces calls for his resignation from county leaders over transparency issues, said Wednesday he would not correct previous statements mentioning protests against police violence in his address on the Sept. 12 attack.
“It’s part of the environment we’re in right now,” said Villanueva. “I don’t need to pull it back. That’s something I can comment on as a sheriff.”
LASD Capt. Kent Wegener told reporters Murray was arrested Sep. 15 after a standoff with police and later charged in connection with an unrelated carjacking and shooting in Compton weeks prior.
According to charging documents from the Sep. 1 carjacking incident, Murray shot a man named Andrew Harris with a rifle while stealing Harris’ black Mercedes Benz sedan.
An analysis of both the sedan and the “ghost gun” tied to the carjacking linked Murray to the Sep. 12 shooting, Wegener said, adding that surveillance video captured Murray fleeing in the same Mercedes after the shooting of officers.
“A forensic test linked him to the gun and the ballistics test linked him to the ambush,” Wegener said of Murray.
Wegener did not comment on any potential motive for the attack and declined to clarify why the shooting was described as premeditated.
“He obviously hates policemen and wants them dead,” Wegener told reporters.
The shooting also drew international attention due to the arrest of a reporter who was covering the protests outside the hospital where the injured officers were treated after the shooting.
KPCC reporter Josie Huang was filming the arrest of a protester when she was violently pulled to the ground and arrested by LASD deputies despite clearly identifying herself as a reporter.
Villanueva later refuted Huang’s claims that she identified herself as a credentialed member of the press, saying she was only carrying her KPCC work ID around her neck when she was arrested.
Lacey’s office declined to criminally charge Huang, saying in a report she was not interfering with law enforcement that night.