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LAPD shooting suspect wanted to be police officer, father says

Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementShootingsCrimeFirearmsLos Angeles Police DepartmentUnrest, Conflicts and War

The father of the 29-year-old man accused of opening fire at a Los Angeles police station Monday night said his son was working as a security guard and aspired to be a police officer.

Danny Yealu, 58, told The Times that his son — Daniel C. Yealu — had told him last year he had applied to a police academy, was making good money as a security guard and had plans to buy a condominium.

Danny Yealu said he did not speak to his son often, but said there were no warning signs leading up to Monday’s shooting. He said he learned of his son’s alleged action after detectives arrived at his house Tuesday morning.

The younger Yealu, who remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday, was booked in absentia on suspicion of attempted murder, LAPD officials said. Online jail records show his bail was set at $2 million.

Yealu walked up to the front desk of the LAPD's Wilshire Division station about 8:30 p.m. and fired at two officers there, Chief Charlie Beck said. One officer was struck multiple times, but he managed to return fire along with the other officer. 

Beck said the suspect used a Glock pistol and was carrying extra magazines, and had another gun -- an assault weapon -- stashed in his car. The weapon was later described as an aged, "heavily modified" AK-47.

"By the grace of God, the suspect did not come in with the assault weapons that he has had access to, one of which I believe was in his vehicle parked right out front," Beck said. 

Officials said that the motive remained unclear and that investigators were looking into whether the shooter would have tried to shoot others had he not been stopped. 

“The belief was he was going to go a lot further than just the two people at the front desk," Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said.

Police said that after the shooting they found a cache of weapons at Yealu's home, including a 9-millimeter handgun, a semi-automatic Sig Saur handgun, an AR-15-style assault rifle, a 1960s SKS model assault rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition were also found, police said.

State records showed Yealu had been licensed to work as a security guard since 2005, and had a firearm permit since 2007. Both were listed as "canceled" on the Department of Consumer Affairs website, but no additional information was immediately available.

Those who lived near Yealu at a Motor Avenue apartment complex said police were at his home Monday night. Neighbors said Yealu had lived at the building for more than a year, but kept to himself. Some said he wasn't friendly to them. A landlord described him as a "difficult tenant," but did not elaborate.

Berton Gray, 59, said he was shocked by the allegations.

"I had no idea," he said. "I don't know what to think."

The wounded officer, a seven-year veteran of the force, was expected to survive, police said. His name was not released. The other officer involved in the shooting has been on the force for four years.

Though initial reports indicated the injured officer was wearing a ballistic vest when he was hit, LAPD Officer Bruce Borihanh said Tuesday that was not the case. Beck later said a mushroomed bullet led police to believe a vest had stopped one of the rounds.

Instead, Beck said, the bullet hit a backup pistol in the officer's left pocket.

It was "truly a miracle," the chief said. "Having that backup gun saved his life.”

One witness told The Times that the shooter had walked down a hall next to a room where more than 30 people were attending a neighborhood council meeting.

Daphne Brogdon, a member of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council, said she dived under a lectern inside the station’s West Bureau community room when the gunfire broke out. One of her colleagues on the neighborhood council, a mother like herself, was next to her. 

"We were just holding hands, looking at each other saying, 'Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God,'" Brogdon said.

Beck praised his officers Tuesday, saying they showed "extreme courage under fire."

"That's a trite phrase that's overused. But in this case, it is extremely accurate," Beck said. "Those officers' actions saved not only their own lives, but the lives of other employees that work in West Traffic and multiple community members who were in a room right next door."

Monday's shooting marked the LAPD's fourth on-duty injury in a month.

On March 7, a rookie cop was injured in a Beverly Hills crash that killed Officer Nicholas Lee, a 16-year veteran assigned to the department's Hollywood station. A little more than two weeks later, another Hollywood officer was injured by shrapnel when a man opened fire at a Hollywood Hills home.

On Saturday, a longtime motor officer was critically injured when he was pinned between two vehicles in Sun Valley. Beck on Tuesday described that officer's injuries as "catastrophic" and said he remained in "extremely critical condition."

The chief then said that his department was "dealing with a lot of tragedy."

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementShootingsCrimeFirearmsLos Angeles Police DepartmentUnrest, Conflicts and War
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