An 18-year-old Chatsworth man was shot and wounded when he struck a Los Angeles police officer with a stolen car, authorities said Tuesday. The officer was a member of a surveillance team that had watched the teen-ager and three other youths steal a car.
Eric Galuppo was shot in the left arm about 11:20 p.m. Monday by Detective Charles Bennett, 32, in the 10600 block of Variel Avenue. Police said Bennett fired four shots when Galuppo disregarded an order to surrender, accelerated the car and struck the officer with the front left fender.
Bennett did not require medical care. Galuppo, who was captured after a helicopter chase, was in stable condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, police said. He was being held in the jail ward on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
Police said two juveniles from Duarte and Rennald Munoz, 19, of Chatsworth, also were arrested on suspicion of auto theft.
Detective Bill Holcomb of the Officer Involved Shooting team said members of the department’s Special Investigations Section (SIS) began watching the four suspects Monday evening, after getting information that the teen-agers were suspected in a series of armed robberies and car thefts in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
Holcomb said that there was not enough evidence to arrest the suspects, so SIS detectives were detailed to watch them.
The SIS squad became embroiled in controversy last year after a report in The Times revealed that the unit sometimes watched dangerous criminals commit violent crimes before arresting them, and that the unit’s arrests resulted in a high number of officer-involved shootings.
In the Monday night incident, all four suspects were in one car, which police would later determine was stolen March 16 in Pasadena, and were followed by plainclothes SIS officers from the downtown area to Chatsworth, Holcomb said. At about 11 p.m., the suspects were watched as they allegedly stole another car, a 1985 Toyota, in the 19000 block of Nashville Street, he said.
With three suspects in the other car and Galuppo driving the Toyota, the suspects drove to nearby Variel street, where they parked both cars, Holcomb said. The SIS officers then moved in to make arrests. Munoz and the juveniles, ages 16 and 17, surrendered without incident, but Galuppo did not, he said.
“He refused to surrender and attempted to flee the scene,” Holcomb said. “Galuppo suddenly accelerated and struck Detective Bennett.”
Bennett fired four shots at Galuppo, who continued to drive away, Holcomb said. His car was followed by a police helicopter for about a mile, until it crashed into the rear of an apartment building in the 9900 block of DeSoto Avenue. Holcomb said Galuppo got out of the car and was captured by police as he ran through the apartment complex.
The SIS shooting Monday was the second involving the unit this month. Both incidents involved Bennett.
One Suspect Killed
On March 14, four SIS officers, including Bennett, fired 14 shots at two suspected kidnapers who were trying to escape after picking up a package of ransom money in South Los Angeles, police said. One of the suspects was killed and the other escaped.
Afterward, police said the kidnap suspects were apparently unarmed but officers defended their action, saying that the suspects were believed to have weapons. Authorities also said officers believed that if the suspects escaped, an abducted woman and her child would be harmed.
Last month, after a review of SIS activities prompted by the report in The Times, the LAPD issued a new “reverence for human life” policy that instructed officers to protect potential crime victims even if it jeopardizes an undercover investigation.