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LAPD defends massive dragnet for gunman who shot officer; search resumes this morning

January 20, 2011 |  6:16 am

The Los Angeles Police Department on Thursday was resuming its search for a suspect who opened fire on  a school police officer in Woodland Hills, saying they hoped to distribute a composite sketch later Thursday.

The suspect eluded a massive 7-square-mile dragnet the LAPD set up after the shooting in front of El Camino Real High School. The LAPD closed off a large swath of the area as more than 300 officers searched for the gunman. More than 8,000 students spent hours locked inside their schools.

Police said they had no regrets that people were inconvenienced.

"Our police officer was inconvenienced because he was shot," LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said. "I stand by these decisions."

Authorities also tried to reassure parents, students and residents that the area would be safe when classes resumed Thursday morning.

"The students can come here and feel safe," Los Angeles school police Chief Steven Zipperman said."We will have a very strong presence here and in and around campus."

Some students who were reunited with their parents following the lockdown Wednesday of nine area schools told the Los Angeles Times that they were not planning to go to school Thursday morning.

The officer was shot in the chest, but he was saved by protective body armor, authorities said. Zipperman said the officer had been released from a hospital and was resting at home with his family.

That massive search disrupted daily routines for thousands of people as cars were searched, roads were blocked and schools were sealed.

Albanese said the gunman, whom the officer stopped after noticing suspicious activity, made a "huge, huge statement" by opening fire in the middle of the day.

"When a police officer's life is threatened," Albanese said, "it threatens our very existence."

Anyone with information is asked to call (877) LAPD 24-7 (527-3247).

The dragnet Wednesday trapped thousands of students and teachers inside their classrooms for hours. The time passed slowly in Natasha Zwick's English class at El Camino Real High School.

To pass the time, Zwick and her 36 students set up a television and watched newscasts about the shooting. Soon, they became hungry and shared a sandwich, a bag of pretzels and a few other snacks that students had brought.

"The bathroom was the worst issue because we weren't allowed out," Zwick told the L.A. Times.

She said they set up a makeshift bathroom with a trash can. It wasn't ideal, she said, but no one complained.

"The kids were amazing," Zwick said.  "Nobody complained, nobody whined, nobody cried."


Students pour out of El Camino Real High after lockdown

Parents wait hours in line to get children at Hale Middle School

Teacher, students shared food, kept spirits high inside El Camino Real High classroom

-- Bob Pool and Robert J. Lopez