Los Angeles police on Monday released a video of a gang member shooting a female officer at point-blank range during a July traffic stop in the San Fernando Valley and her partner subsequently fatally wounding the gunman.
Recordings from inside a police cruiser and the officers' body cameras captured what seems to begin as a routine traffic stop that suddenly explodes into violence as the gunman pulls a .380-caliber handgun from his side and shoots the female officer who is standing just inches away.
Police identified the shooter as Richard Mendoza, 32, a gang member who was on probation. He was struck multiple times in the torso and head, and later died of his injuries at a hospital, according to the video.
LAPD Capt. Patricia Sandoval identified the male officer in the video as Miguel Alarcon of the Mission Division but would not identify the female officer because she has “confidentiality protection as a victim of a violent crime.”
Officers on the police car camera are seen pulling over Mendoza, who was driving a silver Nissan Altima on Noble Avenue in North Hills at about 10:15 p.m. July 27. The female officer approaches the driver's-side door while her partner goes to the passenger-side door.
The female officer appears to recognize Mendoza, as someone who is on federal probation. "Haven't seen you in a while," she tells Mendoza. "You still on probation?"
Mendoza replies that he has nine more months of probation. Her partner’s body cam shows that during the conversation, Mendoza’s hands are up and visible.
She asks him to step out of the vehicle.
"You don't have anything on you, right?" the officer asks. She then opens the driver’s-side door, but as Mendoza steps toward her, he draws the handgun from his right side and fires at close range. Her body camera captures the gun pointing directly at her chest.
Mendoza fires with his right hand at the female officer, hitting her and then swivels to shoot over the car rooftop at her partner. The male officer ducks and leans over the Altima, firing at Mendoza before coming behind the vehicle to the driver’s side and shooting again. The female officer can be heard screaming in pain.
A bloody Mendoza lies motionless on the ground next to his car.
The male officer radios for assistance: "Officers needs help, shots fired. Officer needs help; shots fired. Noble, south of Plummer."
The female officer tells her partner, "In my left leg." He assures her she will be OK as he leans over her to examine her wound, exclaiming, "Oh my God."
Referring to the shooter, she then tells her colleague, "Just get him."
The other officer handcuffs Mendoza behind his back, with blood visibly flowing from his wounds.
The female officer was treated by paramedics at the scene before being transported to a hospital.
In an interview Monday, LAPD Chief Michel Moore commented on how narrowly both officers escaped greater harm.
“By the grace of God she is alive,” Moore said. “Officers are fearful in these situations and the public here gets to see why.
“Once a person has you in that position it is very tough,” he said. “You cannot stop that first one or two shots.”
The chief said the female officer, who worked the gang unit, knew Mendoza on sight and was aware of his history.
Mendoza, who went by the name of “Biz,” was known by the LAPD as a member of the Vincent Town street gang. He has prior convictions for possession of a firearm by a felon and narcotics for sales, according to the LAPD and court records.
Moore said the male partner’s ability to confront the armed driver quickly and decisively saved both their lives and illustrates why officers approach on both sides of a vehicle.
The chief said the shot shattered the female officer’s femur in her upper leg. “I spoke with her, she is OK,” he said, adding that she is continuing to mend.
The LAPD released the video under a new policy that requires recordings to be made public within 45 days of a shooting by a police officer. Moore said the videos provide context and highlight the danger officers face in traffic stops.
Alan Hamilton, an LAPD commander who oversees the department's Force Investigation Division, said his unit is investigating the North Hills incident, which will examine all aspects of the shooting including the tactics.