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LAPD officer's gun, handcuffs stolen in fight during anti-Trump protest

LAPD officer's gun, handcuffs stolen in fight during anti-Trump protest
Protesters chant and wave signs as LAPD officers halt their march through downtown Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles police officer's pistol was stolen Thursday night during a fight with a woman, who attacked him with his handcuffs as protesters flooded downtown to decry the election of Donald Trump.

Around 10:30 p.m., undercover officers noticed a crowd of roughly 20 people break off from the hundreds protesting against Trump and move back toward LAPD headquarters, according to an official with knowledge of the incident. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the case.

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The confrontation began when undercover officers attempted to arrest a man who was spray-painting near the building, the official said. A woman came up and complained before snatching one officer's handcuffs and striking him in the head several times, the official said. Natalie Araujo was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after she was treated at a hospital for unknown injuries, according to LAPD Officer Tony Im.

A third suspect also punched the officer —  one of three assigned to protect LAPD headquarters from potential damage and vandalism, according to the official.

After the struggle, Im said, the officer noticed his gun was missing. Neither the weapon nor the handcuffs used in the attack have been recovered.

"When everything was completed, he realized the gun was no longer in the holster," Im said. "So if anyone sees it, I would like them to return it."

The man seen vandalizing the building, identified as Jorge Suarez, initially resisted but was later found and arrested, Im said.

Nearly 200 people were arrested during the protests early Friday morning, police said.

Graffiti has been a large problem. Taggers have spray-painted expletives aimed at Trump on the sides of news vans, local businesses and the Los Angeles Times building. Many protesters have objected to the taggers' actions, and a near-brawl broke out Wednesday night when a tagger began vandalizing the windshield of an L.A. Metro bus moments before demonstrators raced onto the 101 Freeway.

Police and protesters nearly clashed on Thursday night near 7th and Hill streets  after someone attempted to spray-paint the side of an LAPD cruiser, sending officers reaching for beanbag shotguns and riot helmets as a crowd of 300 marched toward Staples Center.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents LAPD officers, blasted the agency's top brass Thursday for failing to prepare for the protests.

"Why are they willing to allow those protesters to break the law, disrupt the lives of innocent people and put officers' safety in jeopardy?" the union's board of directors wrote in a statement posted on its website. "Police officers and highway patrolmen were in imminent danger, surrounded by hundreds of protesters, and were pleading for backup."

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