Los Angeles: An LAPD officer was critically wounded Saturday night during a shooting with an armed robbery suspect in southwest Los Angeles.
Based on the preliminary investigation, on June 3, 2006, around 10:30 p.m., Southwest Area Officer Kristina Ripatti and her partner, Officer Joe Meyer, were patrolling in uniform in the area of La Salle and Leighton Avenues, in the Exposition Park area. A man ran directly in front of their marked patrol car, mid-block on Leighton Avenue. The officers slowed their vehicle to avoid hitting him, exited their vehicle and followed the suspect, 52-year-old James Fenton McNeal.
McNeal reached the front porch of a nearby residence, turned to point a gun at officers and fired. An officer involved shooting occurred. McNeal was struck in the torso and died at the scene. Officer Ripatti was hit twice by the suspect’s gunfire. She was taken by paramedics to California Hospital Medical Center, where she remains in critical but stable condition, with serious wounds.
It was later learned that the suspect had just committed a robbery at a local gas station. McNeal, a career criminal, had served multiple prison terms for a long list of violent crimes, including armed robbery and murder. He was most recently released from the Central Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, on August 18, 2002, after serving 9 years for attempted robbery, and subsequently spent 3 years on parole, ending November 18, 2005.
Officer Ripatti is 33 years old and has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for 10 years. She is married to LAPD Police Officer Tim Pearce, also a 10-year veteran of the department, a classmate and former partner of Officer Ripatti. He is among the officers who responded to the shooting scene. They have a 15-month-old daughter.
“This occurrence is a tragic reminder of the dangers that the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department face every single day. It underscores the bravery and sacrifice they routinely exhibit in seeking to protect our citizens from criminals and enforce the rule of law in our streets,” said Police Chief William J. Bratton. “Our prayers and deep concern are with Officer Ripatti and her family.”
Chief Bratton responded to the hospital, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to meet with family members and the scores of LAPD officers and family friends who gathered there in support of Officer Ripatti.
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