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Gardena police officer shot with rifle

January 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
An armed suspect who shot a Gardena police officer was captured Wednesday night, police said. Police continued to search for two other suspects still at large. Gardena police say the wounded officer was on a routine patrol that turned into a running gun battle.

The shooting happened at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday.

The shooting happened in the alley behind a Pizza Hut. According to Gardena investigators, about 10 shots were exchanged between the gunman suspect and the officer. The officer went down immediately.

A massive response to a Gardena police officer in need of help as units from Torrance, Inglewood, Hawthorne and the Sheriff's Department converged at Normandie and Rosecrans in a hurry.

"I thought something's up," said nearby witness Michael Luttrell. "And then, all of a sudden, it all broke loose. Police were just coming down here like crazy, three at a time, 90 miles an hour, maybe more."

Gardena investigators describe a running gun battle. It started when an officer on a routine patrol saw three men bolt across Rosecrans in such a hurry that he thought it was suspicious.

The officer tried to corral the suspects, but they scattered. He followed one suspect down an alley.

"As he came around the back, the suspect shot at the officer," said Gardena Police Lt. Ed Burnett. "The officer returned fire. Several rounds were fired. The officer received two gunshot wounds to his right leg."

Over the next several hours, a wide perimeter was set up. The Sheriff's SWAT team scoured the neighborhood south of Rosecrans searching for possible hiding spaces, along with canine units.

"Male black, about 22 years old, 5 foot 9, medium build, clothing is a black shirt and black pants, and [the suspect] has a short Jheri-curl," said Lt. Ed Burnett.

Several young men were detained but then released, as witnesses told detectives there was no match.

"The officer involved in this shooting has just been released from surgery," said Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano. "He is in stable condition at a local hospital. ... The officer responded to some suspicious circumstances about 11:44 at the location of Pizza Hut -- he went to contact a couple subjects. There was a short chase on foot, suspects fired at the officer, the officer returned fire and was subsequently shot. Assisting officers arrived at the scene and they transported him to the hospital."

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Eyewitness News Reporter Elsa Ramon and City News Service contributed to this report.


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