LAPD revises details of Aug. 25 shooting of officer
Los Angeles police officials have corrected several details of how a police officer was shot last week.
In the chaotic hours after the Aug. 25 shooting at Western Avenue and 70th Street, police officials reported that the officer had been struck in the hand and twice in the chest, but said his life had likely been saved by the protective vest he was wearing. They also said that a suspect had been shot and taken into custody, and that the officers had been driving a black-and-white police vehicle.
The officer, as first reported, was shot in the hand, but police officials now say he was not wearing a protective vest. He did suffer a bruise or similar injury on his ribcage, which he told LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith he believes was caused by a bullet, Smith said.
It is unclear whether the injury was, in fact, caused by a bullet and, if so, whether the bullet perhaps was deflected or somehow passed through the car before striking the officer.
The alleged shots to the chest and the vest persisted as accepted facts so much after the shooting that the doctor who oversaw the officer’s treatment told reporters the day after the incident that the vest had protected the officer from more serious injury.
The Times is not releasing the name of the wounded officer at the request of LAPD officials, who have said the safety of the officer and his family could be jeopardized.
The officer, a seven-year veteran of the LAPD, was released from the hospital after undergoing hand surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
An accurate account of the shooting, police say, is this:
Two officers were returning to the 77th Street Division station after conducting an interview related to recent burglaries from vehicles in the neighborhood. The officers were wearing uniforms, but not vests, and were driving an unmarked police vehicle when they saw a man running down the street while clutching his waistband. Suspecting the man might be concealing a gun, the officers followed the man as he ran around the corner onto Western Avenue.
After turning the car onto Western, the officers saw the man was standing next to two or three other men. Before they could get out of the car, the man who had been running opened fire on the officers. The officer who was driving was struck.
It remains unclear what relation the gunman had to the other men who were standing nearby. The man who police initially said had been shot and taken into custody turned out not to be shot and was released from custody after investigators determined he was a transient who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, officials said.
The incident set off a massive search as scores of police scoured dozens of blocks that remained cordoned off for hours. At some point in the operation they found Darvin Cook, 25, within the search area and, for unknown reasons, arrested him on suspicion of being involved in the shooting.
On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Cook with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He is also accused of acting as a gang member, which could carry heavier sentences if he is found guilty.
LAPD Deputy Chief David Doan declined to say whether Cook is suspected of being the gunman or if the gunman was one of the other men at the scene.
A second suspect was taken into custody days later. Doan said that suspect is a juvenile and is being held on a probation violation. Police declined to elaborate on the teenager’s alleged involvement.
The confusion over what exactly happened has been a source of frustration for senior police officials as they try to decipher how inaccurate information was passed on as truth and disseminated to the news media.
Part of the problem, several officials said, was the overwhelming response to the call of an officer being shot. With the wounded officer rushed to the hospital, his partner badly shaken and so many officers swarming the area, it became difficult for senior officials at a nearby command post to tell rumor from fact.
In particular, detectives from several units were chasing leads and not effectively communicating with one another, officials said.
-- Joel Rubin
Photo: LAPD SWAT officers fan out to look for suspects in Aug. 25 shooting. Credit: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times