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Search for LAUSD cop shooter called off

January 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A Los Angeles Unified School District police officer was shot in the chest near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills at Burbank Boulevard and Platt Avenue about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

El Camino Real High School at Burbank Boulevard and Platt Avenue about was locked down following the shooting at about 11:30 a.m.

No students were involved in the shooting, LAUSD officials said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Chief Charlie Beck said Officer Jeffrey Stenroos, an eight-year veteran of the LAUSD police force, was patrolling the school area as part of his regular duties when he spotted a suspicious suspect attempting to break into cars.

Stenroos received a suspect description. When the officer saw a man fitting the description, he exited his car and the suspect fired at least once, striking Stenroos in the chest.

The suspect then apparently fled in a northeast direction from Mantone Avenue and Burbank Boulevard.

It was earlier reported erroneously that Stenroos detained the suspect and placed him inside his patrol vehicle and that the suspect escaped the car.

A civilian local resident got on the officer's police radio to alert authorities, according to Beck.

Authorities confirmed that Stenroos was wearing a protective vest and was transported to an area trauma center, where he was in stable condition. LAUSD spokesman Robert Alaniz said Stenroos was alert and talking. Stenroos was released at 6:15 p.m., according to a hospital official.

The bullet did not penetrate Stenroos' body but did cause some bruising on his chest, said Dr. Stephen Jones, the director of emergency room operations at Northridge Hospital Medical Center.

Jones said the officer fell from the impact of the gunfire and sustained minor scuffs and bruises to his head and back.

Police established a perimeter to locate the suspect, described by LAPD as a white man in his mid- to late-40s with long, dirty blond-brown hair pulled into a pony tail, clean-shaven with gray sideburns, wearing blue jeans and either a dark bomber jacket or hooded sweatshirt. He was described as standing about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall with a thin build. A composite sketch was expected to be released Thursday, according to the LAPD.

A tactical command post was set up at Mantone Avenue and Burbank Boulevard to direct the suspect search, extending a seven-mile radius.

The LAPD called off the search for the shooter at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials said some people were detained for questioning, but no arrests were made. One person of interest taken into custody closely matched the suspect description. That person was later released by detectives.

About 350 law enforcement officers were on scene, including L.A. County Sheriff's deputies, CHP, LAPD and LAUSD security personnel. K-9 units were deployed to assist and helicopter air support was part of the search.

Police asked for the public's help with information on the suspect. Area residents were urged to call the LAPD at (877) LAPD-247. Anyone who had contact with either the suspect or Officer Stenroos before the shooting was also urged to contact police, according to LAPD Det. Kevin McClure.

A command post was also set up at Hale Middle School, which was also locked down during the afternoon. Parents were told to call (818) 654-3600 for information.

Garcetti and Zipperman stressed that the incident near El Camino High was not considered a school shooting; it was a shooting that occurred near a school.

Woodlake Elementary students were expected to be released to Calabash Elementary after 5 p.m. Parents and guardians were informed they would need identification and would need to be listed on students' emergency-contact cards in order to be released. The release was to be conducted in two waves.

Hale Middle School students were being bussed out, as long as they did not reside within the search perimeter. Students were to be picked up by parents at Platt and Oxford. Parents were advised that Platt would not be accessible from the south. Students were to be released in stages.

The search of El Camino High School had been completed and students were later released in stages. Parents were advised they could pick up students on the southwest corner of Valley Circle. Some students would be allowed to walk home, provided they did not live within the search perimeter. The remainder would stay with staff. The lockdown had been lifted by 6 p.m.

Miguel Leonis Continuation School's lockdown was also lifted by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Authorities said the district expects to have all schools open and safe on Thursday. A school official said there would be counselors on hand on district campuses.

About 9,000 students were originally affected by campus lockdowns, according to an LAUSD official.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement regarding the shooting:

"I am shocked and saddened by the news that a Los Angeles Unified School District police officer has been shot in close proximity to El Camino High School. Two shootings in as many days on or near two separate L.A. Unified campuses is cause for grave concern and a reexamination of our school and campus perimeter security policies. My thoughts and prayers are with the wounded officer, the officer's family, and colleagues."

Metro Bus Lines 152, 161 and 645 were to be detoured in the Woodland Hills area due to an ongoing search for a suspect in the shooting. Metro reported there were only minimal delays on the lines.

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