‘Extremely violent’ gun battle involving off-duty LAPD officer in Sherman Oaks garage still under investigation

The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department described in more detail the brief but “extremely violent” gun battle between an off-duty officer and a man believed to have stolen body armor and a handgun from the officer’s car last week at a Sherman Oaks apartment complex.

The incident unfolded last Wednesday at around 2:25 p.m., at the complex in the 5200 block of Vesper Avenue.

The man and the officer fired at each other inside the underground parking garage beneath the complex where the officer lives, Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday morning during a video Los Angeles Police Commission meeting. Witnesses reported hearing at least 10 shots during the shootout.

“This was an extremely violent event, with multiple gunshots being fired by both individuals,” Moore said.

The officer was with a friend when he walked down to the garage and “found this individual sitting inside (his) personal vehicle, wearing what appeared to be the officer’s body armor and armed himself with the officer’s gun,” Moore said.

A fight ensued, then gunfire erupted. The officer was armed with his backup gun. The man, who had managed to get into the locked garage and the locked car, found the officer’s main duty weapon inside the car.

The officer, hit in the chest and thigh, and collapsed inside the garage. The suspect — who was hit three times, in the leg, arm and shoulder — ran out, and was later found on the ground in a breezeway in another apartment complex next door. Officials at the scene last week said they found the officer’s gun, and ammunition for it tossed over a fence.

Moore said both the suspect and the officer had to undergo surgery for their injuries.

It’s unclear what exactly happened when the officer first came upon the suspect inside his car, but that could be detailed in a full police review of the incident. LAPD’s detectives who investigate police shootings and uses of force have not yet released a statement about the shooting.

LAPD is required to present the findings of police shooting investigations to the Police Commission to review whether the officer followed department policy. Those investigations typically take around 10 months to complete.

The shooting also was one of the first under new state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who was sworn in on April 23. Bonta, a former state assemblyman for Oakland and Alameda in the Bay Area, has pledged to get his office more involved in investigations into shootings by officers. His predecessor, current U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, declined to investigate most local police shootings during tenure.

Moore said an A.G.’s office investigator was at the scene Wednesday, but it wasn’t clear what their role was. Bonta’s office did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday.

The chief said the A.G.’s office is “developing the capacity to investigate officer-involved shootings.”

A.B. 1506, a bill signed into law in September 2020 requiring the A.G.’s office to investigate officer killings of unarmed civilians, seemingly wouldn’t apply to this shooting since the man was armed and is alive.

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