Los Angeles: On January 24, 2004, at about 7:00 p.m, the Los Angeles Police Departments, Foothill Patrol Watch Commander, received information from a Foothill Area Senior Lead Officer who was working an assignment at the Los Angeles International Airport. The officer reported to the watch commander that he had received an anonymous phone call on his Department issued cell phone from a person indicating that he had seen an older model black hardtop Ford Mustang being driven by a male Hispanic with a shaved head. The concerned person said that he saw a gun on the dashboard and that the car was seen cruising in the area of Laurel Canyon and Van Nuys Boulevard. The watch commander caused the information to be broadcast to Foothill Area patrol officers.
Later, at about 9:25 p.m. officers working the Foothill Gang Detail attempted to stop a traffic violator who was recklessly driving a black hardtop Pontiac Firebird. The driver was described as a male Hispanic with a shaved head. The officers remembered the information that was broadcast earlier in the evening regarding the suspect with a shaved head driving in the area of Laurel Canyon and Van Nuys Boulevard. When the driver failed to stop for the officers after they turned on their police vehicle red lights and other emergency equipment, the officers went in pursuit of the suspect.
The pursuit traveled on city streets and the freeway. As the pursuit was underway, other foothill officers went to the suspect’s residence and interviewed the suspect’s wife. It was learned at that time that the suspect had committed an act of domestic violence against his wife. Additionally, a second broadcast indicating a possible connection between the earlier broadcast concerning a man with a gun driving a black vehicle and the subject of the pursuit was made by the Foothill watch commander.
During the pursuit the suspect returned to the area of his residence located in the 13700 block of Mercer Street several times but would drive away, continuing to evade pursuing officers.
After over an hour of pursuing the suspect, the Foothill Patrol watch commander directed the pursuing unit to end the pursuit, while at the same time directing the LAPD Air Support helicopter to track the suspect. Air support officers monitored the suspect’s actions as he drove on city streets. As the suspect drove his car eastbound on Mercer Street from Laurel Canyon Boulevard, air unit officers directed officers on the ground to position their police cars at Mercer Street and Amboy Avenue in order to block the suspect’s escape route. As the suspect approached the corner of Mercer Street and Amboy Avenue air unit officers directed other ground officers to seal off the suspect’s escape route by blocking the street at Mercer Street and Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
When the suspect saw that his escape route was blocked at Mercer Street and Amboy Avenue, he stopped, placed his car in reverse and accelerated westbound on Mercer Street to Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The officers who had positioned their police cars to block the suspect’s escape route were standing outside and away from their cars when the suspect collided with one of the police cars, moving it back several feet. The suspect’s car then moved forward in an eastbound direction. Subsequent to the collision an officer-involved-shooting occurred. Officer Douglas Gerst, 50 years old, 28 years with the department fired five rounds from his service pistol striking the suspect multiple times. The suspect was taken into custody without further incident. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to the scene and rendered aid to the suspect. The suspect was transported to a local area hospital where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds and is listed in stable condition.
The suspect was identified as 30 year-old Juan Sepulveda, a resident of Los Angeles. He was booked for 245 A (1) PC, Assault with a Deadly Weapon/ Vehicle. His bail was set at $30,000.
The events, at least leading up to the collision and officer involved shooting, were captured on videotape by two people who were in the area. The videotapes will be crucial in determining what actually happened during the officer-involved-shooting. The videotapes were shared with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
According to established protocols, representatives of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Police Commission’s Inspector General and the Commanding Officer of the Department’s Consent Decree Bureau responded to the scene, were briefed by the investigators and had an opportunity to review the two available videos.
The involved officer was placed on administrative leave according to established guidelines pending further administrative review.
The department is asking anyone with additional information concerning this incident, including video recordings please contact the Critical Incident Investigation Division at 213-485-2129.
This news release was prepared by Lieutenant Art Miller, Officer In Charge, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.