Crime & Justice

Quick recovery expected for officer wounded in South LA shoot out

An LAPD cruiser in Downtown Los Angeles.
An LAPD cruiser in Downtown Los Angeles.
LifeSupercharger/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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The officer wounded in Thursday's South Los Angeles shoot-out underwent a successful hand surgery Friday, according to doctors at the California Medical Center. Quick thinking by the officer accounts for what doctors expect to be a 100 percent recovery, LAPD's Police Chief Charlie Beck said Friday.

The officer and his partner had stopped to talk to two men, one on foot and one on a bicycle, when one of them opened fire.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says one man is in custody but police don't know yet his level of involvement. At least one other person is being sought. Beck says police are also testing a gun seized in the extensive search that followed the shooting.

Beck told KPCC's Patt Morrison Friday that he saw the wounded officer shortly before 12 p.m. and that the officer was in good spirits, "he gave me a solid thumbs up, of course he was very very groggy from the anesthetic," said Beck.

Beck credited more than the bulletproof vest for the officer's survival and said, "whether or not there was a round at his chest, that's absolute speculation at this point, but certainly, you know, his ability and his partner's ability to return fire, to eliminate the threat made a big difference."

"There's is nothing more traumatic or dramatic in this business to come under fire in such an unexpected way," he added.

The two men the officers tried to stop were car burglary suspects who, after the shooting, vanished despite a search in which a 72-square-block area was locked down and 100 LAPD officer, including helmeted, combat-clad SWAT officers, were deployed, some knocking on doors as LAPD choppers hovered overhead.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, speaking at a news conference Thursday, said violence against police was on the rise.

"For the year, we're up substantially, 29 percent, in the number of instances that our police officers have been shot at, so this is a great cause for concern," he said.

Beck suggested the trend has been escalating in recent days.

"In the past seven days, this is the third time that people have tried to murder uniformed Los Angeles police officers," he said in discussing Thursday afternoon's shooting. One of the incidents to which he referred was in Encino Sunday night, when undercover officers were shot at but unharmed in a confrontation with double-murder suspect Brent Zubek, who was wounded and arrested.

This story incorporates information from KPCC wire services and was updated with new facts and an interview with LAPD chief Charlie Beck on Friday August 26, 2011 at 3:45 p.m. KPCC's Lily Mihalik contributed to this report.