COMPTON (CNS) - Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said today that the investigation was continuing in Saturday's ambush shooting of two deputies as they sat in a patrol SUV at a Compton rail station, and said efforts were being made to transfer the pair from St. Francis Medical Center to a long-term care facility.
“Both deputies remain in the ICU unit there,'' Villanueva said. “We're trying to see if we can transfer them to a place where they can get long-term care, but we obviously have concerns about the COVID and security concerns, so that's going to be an ongoing issue that we are going to have to address.''
As of Wednesday, no suspects had been identified in the attack on the deputies, although some reports circulating online implied that an armed carjacking suspect arrested Tuesday in Lynwood could be the wanted gunman.
Villanueva was asked why that suspect -- Deonte Murray, 36 – was being held on $2 million bail, and if the suspect was related to the deputies' shooting. The sheriff did not directly address the latter part of the question.
“(He) was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, and carjacking,'' Villanueva said. “And he actually shot the victim with an AR-15, and stole the vehicle. So that, itself, is going to necessitate the higher bail. And he is (an) extremely dangerous person, and thankfully, he was arrested without incident -- without, at least, anybody being injured ...
“We continue doing a very wide-scale search and investigation on who is responsible for the ambush, and we're chasing all leads,'' Villanueva said. “And right now, it's a lot of work we have to do; and we're not taking anything for granted.''
On Tuesday, Villanueva said investigators were “working day and night to identify and arrest these cowards,'' referencing the gunman and a possible getaway driver.
A GoFundMe page set up for the two deputies had raised $531,428 toward the page's new goal of $750,000 as of late Wednesday morning. The page, which was started by sheriff's Detective Keegan McInnis, can be found at http://ow.ly/N3q430r9VTq.
The deputies remained hospitalized following surgery, and were last reported in stable condition.
“Fortunately, they were spared any injury to a vital organ that would have jeopardized their life immediately,'' Villanueva said Monday. But he added that the pair -- described only as a 24-year-old man and a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy -- have a long road to recovery. Both deputies were sworn in just 14 months ago.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally ratified a $100,000 reward offer Tuesday. Villanueva, speaking at the board meeting, said the reward had been matched and exceeded by private donors.
“I am honored & pleased to announce that a surgeon who personally knows how difficult & long the recovery will be for the 2 deputies, has donated $50,000 from his own funds,'' the sheriff tweeted Wednesday. “This surgeon from Wyoming wants everyone to know that this horrific attack didn't just affect those in Los Angeles, but it affected everyone in the United States who care about our law enforcement officers.''
The county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Monday that it was adding $25,000 to the reward, noting that the deputies were working for Metro's Transit Services Bureau at the time of the shooting.
The League of United Latin American Citizens added another $25,000 to the reward money, and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents the department's deputies, announced Tuesday night that it was donating $75,000.
Members of the county board said cities including Palmdale, Cerritos, Lakewood and Industry had also added to the reward, though the totals were not immediately available.
Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas authored the reward motion.
Ridley-Thomas urged those who know the gunman to contact the Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be left for L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or at http://lacrimestoppers.org .
“We simply cannot tolerate this kind of lawlessness,'' he said.
Supervisor Janice Hahn also pushed anyone with information to come forward.
“Somebody knows who this person is, they know their name and we're hoping that this will bring that information forward so we can bring this perpetrator to justice,'' Hahn said.
Villanueva challenged Lakers star LeBron James, who has been outspoken on social-justice issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, to match the reward offer.
Villanueva said Tuesday that he singled out James because of the player's previous comments after last month's police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“He symbolized some of the comments we've heard from politicians,elected leaders, civic leaders, where they're making a broad-brush condemnation of an entire profession,'' Villanueva said.
“I just think we need to put down the broad brushes and re-focus on all the people accountable when they cross the line, as we are doing with law enforcement across the entire nation.''
James has not responded to Villanueva's comments.
The attack occurred at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Metro A (Blue) Line station at Willowbrook Avenue and Palmer Street. Surveillance video shows the suspect approaching the patrol vehicle from behind, walking up to the passenger side of the vehicle, pulling out a handgun and firing through the passenger side window. The gunman is then seen running away.
The shooter was described by the sheriff's department as a “male Black, 28- to 30-years-old, wearing dark clothing, who was last seen heading northbound on Willowbrook Avenue in a black four-door sedan.''
A group of protesters showed up at the hospital Saturday night and shouted anti-law-enforcement chants, some expressing hope that the deputies die. One witness told ABC7 some protesters tried to force their way into the emergency room while shouting “death to the police.''
“They were chanting that they wish the deputies died,'' Villanueva told KNX Monday. “And I don't even know how to be begin to describe that, other than repulsive, reprehensible.''
The shooting came on the heels of a series of combative protests outside the sheriff's South Los Angeles station, with demonstrators condemning the Aug. 31 fatal shooting by two sheriff's deputies of 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee in the Westmont area.
Those demonstrations led to more than three dozen arrests, with the protesters accusing deputies of using excessive force and Villanueva saying demonstrators triggered the violence by hurling objects at sheriff's deputies.
The sheriff's department was also being criticized over the arrest of a KPCC/LAist reporter while deputies were working to quell the protest outside the hospital. Video from the scene showed deputies pinning reporter Jose Huang to the ground and arresting her.
The sheriff's department claimed she didn't have proper media credentials and was “interfering with a lawful arrest.'' Villanueva later doubled down on that contention, saying Huang got “right up on the shoulder'' of a deputy trying to make an arrest, and saying her actions were more “activism'' than journalism.
Video from Huang's cell phone has since surfaced, showing Huang repeatedly identifying herself as a reporter, shouting “KPCC,'' and saying, “You're hurting me'' and crying out in apparent pain.
Inspector General Max Huntsman has opened an investigation into Huang's arrest.