VAN NUYS (CNS) - An ex-con pleaded not guilty today to charges stemming from a gun battle with an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer in Sherman Oaks in April that left both men injured.
Christopher Camarena, 24, is charged with one count each of attempted murder, second-degree robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with allegations that he personally used a handgun and personally inflicted great bodily injury to the officer, identified as Michael Beyda in the criminal complaint.
The defendant, who is being held in lieu of $2.205 million bail, was ordered to return to court on July 15, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing.
Camarena has prior convictions in Los Angeles County in 2015 for assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and resisting arrest and in 2017 for driving or taking a vehicle without consent, according to the complaint.
The confrontation occurred about 2:25 p.m. on April 28 when the officer, accompanied by a female companion, left his apartment and entered the subterranean locked parking garage of the complex in the 5200 block of Vesper Avenue, near Van Nuys and Magnolia boulevards.
According to LAPD Chief Michel Moore, the officer discovered the suspect sitting in the officer's car, wearing his bulletproof vest and in possession of the officer's gun, which was in a duty bag inside the vehicle.
“As he confronts the suspect ... an altercation ensues,'' the police chief said shortly after the shootout. “That altercation turns into what we believe to be a gun battle between the both of them, with the suspect using the officer's primary duty weapon and the officer defending himself from that attack. This ensuing altercation goes through the subterranean garage in an easterly direction to the back side of this apartment and into an east-west breezeway, where the suspect is struck ... and falls to the ground.''
Moore said the officer, who was armed with a backup handgun, approached the wounded suspect and retrieved his service weapon, then went back to his vehicle in the garage. The officer placed the guns “next to the vehicle and collapses, as he has suffered multiple gunshot wounds -- two to the chest and one to the side,'' the police chief said.
Los Angeles Fire Department units were called the scene and took the officer to a hospital. The police chief said then that the officer suffered “traumatic'' injuries and is “grateful to be alive.''
Paramedics also tended to the wounded suspect, who was shot in a shoulder and an arm. Moore said the suspect was seen “throwing the officer's firearm magazines over a fence'' when officers and paramedics approached him to render aid.
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