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Helicopter sniping incident ends; no second suspect found

April 24, 2011 |  3:07 pm

Police600

Police found no second armed man at the site of a sniping incident Sunday that damaged an LAPD helicopter, forcing it to land at Van Nuys Airport.

At least one suspect, a 20-year-old man, has been arrested in the incident, which occurred about 6 a.m. near Saticoy Street and Densmore Avenue.

The suspicion that a second armed man may have been involved came after police had arrested the first suspect, who had been firing shots randomly and then directed his gunfire at a responding helicopter.  Residents reported a second armed man in a nearby building.

The original shooter was subdued by his family and taken into custody by police.

The earlier shots hit the fuel tank, causing fuel to leak and the helicopter to make an emergency landing.

"This situation could have easily turned tragic, and we were just fortunate that the aircraft was able to land safely without injury to the officers or the public," Asst. Chief Earl Paysinger said. "It's ironic that it happened on Easter Sunday. Someone divine was watching over us."

There were no immediate reports of injuries to officers aboard the copter. 

At least one apartment building was evacuated, and some residents were waiting in a nearby school auditorium. Portions of Densmore and Saticoy could remain closed for several hours as authorities work to apprehend the second suspect. It was not known if the two suspects knew each other.

"Anyone that resides in the area, we suggest they stay out," said Det. Sgt. Gus Villanueva, an LAPD spokesman.

Resident Irene Garcia, 43, was sleeping when she awoke to the sound of gunfire. She and her family had planned to attend church and then celebrate Easter at her sister's home. Instead, Garcia had to evacuate her apartment building along with her husband, daughter and 20-month-old grandson.

"We're waiting to see if we can go back to get his Easter basket and clothes," Garcia said as she stood outside in the chilly air.

The incident ended about 2:45 p.m., and residents were allowed back into the area.

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-- Corina Knoll and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: An LAPD officer carries out the search for a suspected second gunman in the shooting of a police helicopter. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

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