It started like so many police car chases in Los Angeles do.
But when a sport utility vehicle being pursued through South L.A. stopped on a freeway onramp, a gunman carrying a high-powered, assault-type rifle stepped out and opened fire at the police cruiser behind.
The shooting marked the start of a one-mile, rolling gun battle with police that ended when one of two men inside a Chevrolet Tahoe seriously wounded an LAPD officer before police fatally shot the armed suspect. The other person in the SUV was taken into custody.
The violence tied up early morning traffic for hours and left LAPD investigators combing three crime scenes for bullet casings and other evidence.
The wounded officer, a 22-year department veteran and member of the department’s SWAT team for 15 years, suffered a shattered left leg bone when a round went through his calf, police and California Hospital Medical Center officials said. An LAPD spokesman said his injuries were serious but not fatal.
By Monday afternoon, investigators hadn’t counted all the rounds fired, and piecing together a precise timeline of what occurred would take weeks, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. Unlike last week’s controversial shooting of a mentally disabled man in South L.A., the police cruisers involved in Monday’s shooting were outfitted with cameras that captured video of the encounter, he said.
Police said the confrontation started near Florence Avenue and Figueroa Street about 2:20 a.m., when police tried to pull over the Tahoe for reckless driving.
The SUV sped off, police said, leading officers along surface streets before heading onto the 110 Freeway. The Tahoe briefly got off the freeway before stopping on the Vernon Avenue onramp, where the gunman traded fire with chasing LAPD officers, police said.
After speeding off again, the assailants got off the freeway at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and drove east into the industrial area of South-Central near the USC campus and crashed into a curb at 37th and Hill streets, Smith said. The two men ran from the car and hid as police searched the neighborhood. Officers set up a perimeter and called in two helicopters, a SWAT team and police dogs, he said.
About two hours after the chase began, a police dog found one of the men in a dumpster. Officers lobbed in a flash grenade to stun the man and used pepper spray to subdue him and take him into custody. Smith said the man was 19 but provided no other identifying information.
The second man was found soon afterward carrying a rifle about a block away on Grand Avenue between 38th and 37th streets. The department’s SWAT team used one of its two BearCat armored vehicles, a $150,000 rescue vehicle bought in 2003, to shield them as they approached the gunman.
The gunman peppered the BearCat with bullets, striking the SWAT officer, before he was killed by return fire, Smith said.
“Thank goodness we had that armored vehicle as a shield because a regular police cruiser would have been Swiss cheese,” Smith said.
The gunman was identified late Monday as Andre Maurice Jones, 37, of Los Angeles. The rifle the man was wielding is “rare,” Smith said, and was modified with a plastic stock, assault rifle pistol grip and a high-capacity drum magazine.
Northbound lanes of the Harbor Freeway leading to downtown L.A. were closed for several hours during the investigation, backing up morning commute traffic for miles. The freeway was reopened at 12:30 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.