A drive-by shooting by six suspected members of an East Los Angeles gang erupted into a rolling gunfight with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies that ended in a fiery crash and the deaths of two of the suspects, authorities said Saturday.
The four survivors were rescued from the flaming wreckage of their car by deputies who had chased them across East Los Angeles. The alleged gang members' vehicle flipped over after slamming into the car of another set of deputies who had joined the pursuit.
"It's really ironic how it turned out, that these guys were saved by the people they were trying to kill," said Sgt. Bob Olmsted.
No deputies were wounded. Two received minor injuries in the collision.
The battle started around 10:45 p.m. Friday, Olmsted said, when three deputies from the sheriff's East Los Angeles substation, driving an unmarked car, saw the occupants of another car firing into a home in the 3200 block of Winter Street.
The shooting apparently was part of an ongoing conflict between two gangs, Olmsted said.
"When the suspects realized the deputies were behind them, they then shot at the deputies," Olmsted said. After deputies fired back, the suspects sped away, triggering the five-minute chase that spanned 13 blocks.
At the intersection of 1st and Mott streets, the suspects' car overturned and burst into flames after it smashed into a marked sheriff's patrol car that had joined the chase, Olmsted said.
When the deputies ordered the occupants out of the car, more shots were fired as the suspects began climbing out of the overturned vehicle, Olmsted said. The deputies returned the gunfire.
Two suspects, Ismael Garcia, 19, and Alejandor Luevano, 20, both of Los Angeles, collapsed and died after staggering across the intersection, officials said. Both had gunshot wounds, although an autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, officials said.
Deputies then ran to the burning car, pulling four of the gang members to safety, Olmsted said.
One suspect, Angel Esparza, 20, of Los Angeles, was listed in critical condition at County-USC Medical Center. Victor Gomez, 21, of West Covina, Otto Sanabria, 19, of Los Angeles, and an unidentified 16-year-old were listed in good condition. They were booked for investigation of murder at the hospital's jail ward.
One deputy in the patrol car that was struck suffered a dislocated shoulder, and another sustained head and leg injuries. They were treated at Santa Marta Hospital in East Los Angeles, Olmsted said. The names of the deputies were not released.
In an unrelated shooting involving a sheriff's deputy, an alleged gang member was shot and wounded after authorities said he attempted to rob an off-duty deputy at a Willowbrook gas station.
Deputy William Buss was uninjured in the 6 a.m. shooting at an Arco gas station in the 1330 block of Imperial Highway, Olmsted said.
Buss was pumping gas when the suspect, identified as Morris Barnes, 26, of Los Angeles, approached from behind, pulled out a gun and demanded the deputy's money and wallet, Olmsted said, adding that Buss complied.
As Barnes started to run, the deputy identified himself as a law enforcement officer and ordered him to halt, Olmsted said, adding that the alleged robber then spun and pointed a gun at Buss. The deputy shot Barnes once in the leg with his off-duty service revolver, the spokesman said.
Barnes was treated for his wound and booked at the Men's Central Jail on suspicion of assault on a police officer and robbery.