LOS ANGELES (AP) — Investigators say an assault-rifle-clutching gunman opened fire on Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies during a car chase that ended with a crash and the arrest of two alleged gang members.
Deputies weren't hit by the AK-47 gunfire.
Deputies Laura Perales and Chris Gomez heard gunfire in Lynwood on Tuesday evening and spotted a car speeding away from a wounded man in the street. Investigators believe the incident involved two rival gangs, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Wednesday at a news conference to announce year-end crime statistics.
During a chase, the man in the passenger seat of the fleeing car leaned out of the window and began shooting at Perales and Gomez with the rifle. The shooter then fled from the car, running through the neighborhood. The driver crashed into another car in Compton before being taken into custody, and the man who ran was captured a short while later.
The AK-47 was recovered in a search of the area. Baca said the military-grade weapon is illegal to buy or own in California. It was also being used with a 30-round magazine that is illegal in the state, he said.
The shooting victim was in stable condition at the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.
"We're just happy everybody made it out safe," Perales said.
Gomez, who is familiar with assault weapons because of prior military service, said deputies can come into contact with such weapons "on a daily basis."
At the news conference, Baca held up an AK-47 and said there was "no common sense" reason to have such military-grade weapons in a "domestic world" situation.
"You can provide all the weaponry Americans need for their sporting purposes, but I don't know anyone who needs an assault weapon to protect themselves," Baca said.
He said it's also relatively easy for gang members to get the illegal weapons.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has previously traced 700 weapons seized in Compton over several years and found they were brought in from other states such as Arizona and Connecticut, Baca said. People with clean criminal records act as "straw buyers" to purchase the weapons and supply them to gang members, he said.
Investigators will be tracing the AK-47's history to find out who the purchasers were, Baca said. "If you're giving it away to a known gang member and you have no criminal record, you should," Baca said.
On Wednesday, Baca also touted last year's 166 homicides as a "historic" low for the department not seen since 1970. But of that number, 105 were gang-related, and gang-related homicides have accounted for an average of up to 60 percent of all homicides over the last five years.
Baca called those numbers unacceptable and said "gangs will continue to be our highest priority."