LONG BEACH (CNS) - A Los Angeles man pleaded not guilty today to charges that he tried to kill two officers at the LAPD's Harbor Station in San Pedro, including one who was pistol-whipped and another with whom he allegedly exchanged gunfire.
Jose Cerpa Guzman, 29, is charged with two counts each of attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, along with one count each of second-degree robbery, evading and resisting an officer.
He could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Guzman walked inside the police station and got into a verbal altercation with an officer shortly before 10 p.m. Sept. 26, left the building, then returned and allegedly began attacking the officer. He grabbed the officer's gun and struck him with it several times, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Security video showed the suspect pistol-whipping the officer in the head multiple times with the officer's own gun after he went out to meet with Guzman in the lobby of the station at 2175 John S Gibson Blvd. The suspect then pointed the weapon at the officer and ran out the door.
While Guzman was outside the station, shots were exchanged between the suspect and a second officer who arrived in the lobby, but no one was injured in the gunfire, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Guzman fled from the scene and was found a short time later, at which point he allegedly resisted arrest, according to the District Attorney's Office. He has remained jailed since then in lieu of $2.2 million bail.
It was unclear how the suspect got inside the station. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore told reporters that LAPD stations are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but officers do answer the door when there's a knock.
The injured officer was expected to make a full recovery, the police chief said. The officer, whose name was not released, has more than 30 years of service with the department.
“I am grateful that the officer ... who was working the desk (and) came out to assist this individual to understand what his needs were, that he survived and that during this engagement that he did not lose his life," Moore said. “He did not suffer the injury that apparently this suspect meant to inflict."
The attack came two weeks after a pair of Los Angeles County Sheriff'sDepartment deputies were injured in Compton in an unprovoked shooting at a Metro station as they sat in their patrol vehicle.
The San Pedro incident came in the wake of a recent intensification of protests across the Southland that have raised questions about the role of police in the community, and treatment of minority groups by law enforcement.
City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the 15th Council District and was an LAPD officer for 15 years, said: “What happened here at the police station was horrible, but something horrible is happening in our country. There is too much of a divide in our values in law enforcement. Let's be reminded. Our police officers are our angels in the City of Angels. They protect us.''
Moore told the Police Commission last month that assaults against police officers have risen 156% compared to this time last year. The chief said then that 282 felony assaults have taken place against LAPD officers, compared to 110 this time last year. He also said most of the incidents took place during ongoing protests against police brutality that began in late May.