Los Angeles: A 21-year-old gang member from South Gate fired at two undercover Los Angeles police officers last night, February 2, 2007, after he saw them driving in the neighborhood near Figueroa Street, south of 46th Street. The officers were able to return fire, wounding their assailant, and capturing his 9mm handgun.
During an impromptu news conference at the 77th Street Police Station this morning at 11:30 A.M., Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton recognized the two officers’ heroic actions and thanked them for their dedication to protecting the community. The officers’ bullet riddled car was parked in the background. Chief Bratton noted, “While homicides in the city are down about 30 percent so far this year, assaults on police officers continue to rise.”
For all of 2006, suspects fired at police officers 23 times, but in just over one month of 2007, LAPD officers have been shot at 4 times, and two officers have been wounded. Police officers have fired at suspects eight times this year, compared to only two officer-involved shootings for the same time last year. Last night was the second gunfire assault on LAPD officers in as many days.
Last night’s incident unfolded at approximately 10:00 P.M. when 77th Street officers working an undercover assignment were conducting surveillance in the 4600 Block of South Figueroa Street. The block has been plagued by street robberies, perpetrated by gang members against the most vulnerable looking victims.
Officers Mike Pace, 30, and Danny Mendez, 27, were in plain clothes, driving an unmarked vehicle. They noticed three gang members in front of the apartment, so they turned their car around to investigate.
One of the gang members, Anthony Dale Lavell, ran across the four lanes of Figureoa Street, chasing the officers’ car with a gun in his hand, yelling, “Where you from?” The officers noticed Lavell and stopped the car. They got out, drew their weapons, and identified themselves as police officers. Lavell answered the warning with a volley of shots, of which two struck the rear window of the officers’ car.
Pace and Mendez returned fire, striking Lavell several times. Lavell’s two companions, who had been following behind him, turned and ran back to the apartment building. Police detained both of them two hours later after establishing a two square-block perimeter. Police detained a third gang member who is on parole. They are investigating his involvement in the incident. A State Parole Agent, working with the surveillance unit, violated the gang member’s parole. Officers also found two more guns, hidden within the apartment complex, but do not think the guns were directly involved with this incident.
Lavell was treated at the California Medical Center. He will face charges of attempted murder on police officers once he is released from the hospital. Neither of the officers were injured.
Officer Pace is a 7-year veteran of LAPD, while Mendez has been with the department 3 years.