The gunman is at large and the two deputies are in critical condition. The incident led to the arrest of an anti-police demonstrator and a woman journalist.
Posted on September 13, 2020, at 6:56 p.m. ET
Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are in critical condition after a gunman shot them multiple times in a shocking ambush that was caught on surveillance video in Compton, California, on Saturday evening.
The incident sparked the arrest of an anti-police demonstrator and a woman journalist outside the hospital where the two deputies are being treated.
The gunman, who has not been identified, has not been caught, officials said.
The sheriff’s department described the suspect as a 28 to 30-year-old Black male “wearing dark clothing.”
Officials have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.
The two deputies, identified as a 31-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, were shot multiple times and are “fighting for their lives,” the sheriff’s office said.
The deputies were sitting in their patrol vehicle at the the MLK Transit Center in Compton at 6:58 p.m. local time on Saturday, when they were “ambushed by a gunman in a cowardly fashion,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference.
The sheriff’s department tweeted a surveillance video of the shooting, saying the lone gunman walked up to the deputies and opened fire “without warning or provocation.”
The gunman “acted as if he was going to walk past the car and then made a left turn directly towards the car, raised a pistol, and fired several rounds inside the vehicle striking both of the sheriff’s deputies,” Captain Kent Wegner said at the press conference. The gunman then ran away.
Villanueva said that both deputies were sworn into office 14 months ago. The 34-year-old is a mother of a six-year-old boy.
“The two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business, and watching out for the safety of the people on the train,” Villanueva said. “Seeing somebody walk up and just started shooting on them… it pisses me off and dismays me.”
Villanueva appeared to connect the shooting to some rhetoric around law enforcement, even though officials have not released a motive for the shooting. “This is just a somber reminder that this is a dangerous job, words have consequences, and our job doesn’t get any easier because people don’t like law enforcement,” the sheriff said.
The shooting comes amid months-long protests over police brutality across the nation. The vast majority of protesters are calling for police to stop killing nonviolent Black people, to stop the systemic racism that is pervasive in law enforcement, and to divert funds from police forces to social services. A smaller number of protesters, who draw attention on social media, have more hostile rhetoric against law enforcement.
The shooting sparked strong reactions on social media, including from President Donald Trump, who referred to the suspected gunman in a tweet saying, “animals that must be hit hard.”
Trump also said that if the officers die, the suspect should have a “fast trial death penalty.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reacted to the shooting, tweeting, “This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice.”
Both deputies underwent surgery at the St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood after the shooting, officials said.
In tweets, the sheriff’s department accused “protesters” of “blocking” the hospital’s emergency room entrance and exit and yelling “we hope they die,” in an apparent reference to the deputies who were shot.
Videos shared on social media, including one taken by a journalist who was later arrested by deputies, showed a handful of men making anti-police statements outside the medical center, with at least one law enforcement official pointing a weapon at them.
Some right-wing figures and outlets, without evidence, attached the men outside the hospital to the Black Lives Matters movement. The far-right, especially at the Republican National Convention, has sought to paint all peaceful protesters calling for racial justice as the same as those who riot or call for harm against law enforcement.
The Los Angeles chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement told BuzzFeed News on Sunday that they had “not organized any protests outside the hospital.”
Officials said one of the male protesters who refused to comply with a dispersal order for unlawful assembly of protesters outside the hospital was arrested on Saturday night.
Deputies said they also arrested a woman journalist who “ignored repeated commands to stay back” during a struggle to arrest the protester.
The journalist was identified as Josie Huang, an award-winning reporter for LAist and KPCC. An ABC7 video showed several officers pinning Huang to the ground and handcuffing her. She was arrested for “obstructing justice” by “interfering with a lawful arrest,” the LAist reported.
Huang was released from the county jail on Sunday morning.
The LASD alleged that Huang “did not identify herself as press” and that she admitted that she did not have “proper press credentials” at the time of her arrest.
However, Huang was heard repeatedly identifying herself as a KPCC reporter, according to audio from Huang’s phone — which recorded the encounter after it was knocked from her hand, LAist reported. Huang was also heard yelling “you’re hurting me,” during her arrest.
In tweets on Sunday, Huang shared her videos of the encounter and her arrest, saying that she was wearing a lanyard around her neck with a press ID.
Huang said that she was filming a “handful of men” who were on the sidewalk outside the hospital on Saturday night. She said some of the men were carrying flags while others were filming deputies and “taunting them.”
According to Huang, the small group of men later dispersed from outside the hospital and she saw deputies chasing two of them down the street.
She said that when she approached officers who were arresting one of the men, she was “shoved around.” Huang said that her phone fell to the ground but recorded her as she shouted that she was a reporter with KPCC and screamed for help.
Huang’s colleagues defended her as “an extremely competent and responsible journalist” and referred to other reporters’ accounts at the scene who said she had shouted out her KPCC affiliation and was wearing her press credentials when she was arrested.
Megan Garvey, executive editor of LAist and KPCC, tweeted a photo showing Huang’s bruises sustained during her arrest.
“NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public,” NPR said in a statement Sunday. “The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.”
Both KPCC and the LAist have called for the LASD to apologize for Huang’s arrest.
LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman told KPCC’s Frank Stoltze that he is opening an investigation into Huang’s arrest.