An off-duty 20-year veteran Los Angeles police officer was in critical condition Friday after a fight with another man in downtown’s skid row ended with the officer shooting the suspected assailant, police said.
The narcotics detective, whose name was not released, was “severely injured” during the incident that occurred near the intersection of 6th and San Julian streets about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, police said. The officer was placed in an induced coma on Thursday night.
The officer “suffered significant injuries but he is on the road to recovery,” said Deputy Chief Dennis Kato, who oversees LAPD’s South Bureau, where the detective works. “It will be a long road….but he will get better.”
Kato said he visited the officer in the hospital Friday morning. He said he was conscious and was able to communicate with his family.
During the fight, the officer fired his handgun at the suspect in self defense, officials said. The suspected assailant was wounded and also listed in critical condition.
The department did not explain what led up to the clash. An LAPD spokesman also could not immediately say whether the alleged assailant had been accused of a crime.
The attack happened near the rear entrance of the Midnight Mission, where sidewalks are lined with tents and hundreds of homeless people often congregate. The confrontation was initially described as an attempted robbery but officials said it’s not clear what happened.
Several law enforcement officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said the officer had been out drinking in the hours before he was attacked in an attempted robbery. Investigators believe the officer was on his way to his downtown apartment, which he had rented because of a week-long training session, the officials said.
A weapon, likely a blunt object, was used to repeatedly strike the officer in the head, the sources said. The officer fired at least two shots in self-defense, according to the officials, who said the suspect fled to the LAPD’s nearby Central Division station, where he sought medical attention.
Some of the officer’s belongings, including his badge, were taken during the incident, according to two officials. Emergency personnel did not realize the victim was an officer until they were treating him at a hospital, one of the sources said.
The officer is assigned to the 77th Street Division, sources said.
Josh Rubenstein, the LAPD’s chief spokesman, said investigators are having a difficult time ascertaining what led to the incident because neither the officer or the person who was shot have been able to speak since the clash. Rubenstein described the officer as a “detective,” but declined to identify him.
He described the person who was shot as an “adult male.” It remains unclear if the person who was shot is homeless. The case is being investigated by the Robbery-Homicide and Force Investigation divisions.
The LAPD had not had an officer-involved shooting in 2019 until Thursday morning, but the skid row incident was the first of two in a matter of hours.
Around 7 a.m. Thursday, an officer shot and killed an armed man on a train platform at the 7th Street/Metro Center station downtown. It was not immediately clear what led to the shooting.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.