By Robert Jablon
LOS ANGELES —A black-clad gunman ambushed two detectives returning to a police station early Tuesday, but they received only minor injuries and were helping in the hunt for the attacker, police said.
Police cordoned off 25 square blocks of the Mid-City area, detained three or four people for questioning and planned to look at surveillance video from homes and businesses in the area, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Portions of the busy area would remain locked down until at least noon, Smith said.
"Anybody who's willing to do this and take on two armed police officers outside of a police station is obviously a very dangerous person," Smith said. "We want to do everything we can to get this individual in custody so we can keep our community safe."
The detectives, who are with an undercover burglary task force, had conducted an investigation and returned to the Wilshire Division station on Venice Boulevard at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. They were using a keycard to open the gate when they were attacked, police said.
"Suddenly someone from behind began shooting at their vehicle," Smith said.
The car was hit several times and the detectives fired back, but the man ran away, Smith said at a later news conference.
"That was a blatant attempt to assassinate two of the people who protect this community," Police Chief Charlie Beck told the city Police Commission.
One officer suffered a minor wound to the back of his head, either from a bullet graze or debris from the damaged car, Smith said. The other had an injury to the back of his hand. They were treated at a hospital and returned to a command post for the manhunt.
"It's a tremendous relief" that neither was seriously hurt, Smith said.
One detective has 20 years on the job and the other is an 11-year veteran, Smith said.
TV news reports showed a white car with shattered windows and a bullet hole in the windshield stopped in the station driveway.
About 200 officers, aided by helicopters and dogs, searched for the gunman, described generally as a black man in his 30s with a mustache and goatee, dressed in black and wearing a black cap.
At least three or four men matching that description were detained and the detectives would be asked to determine whether they could identify any of them as the gunman, Smith said.
Television news reports showed officers stopping and handcuffing at least four men, some wearing black clothing and at least one wearing camouflage-print shirt and pants.
The gunman had to know that only police officers could enter the station through that gate and, therefore, that the people in the car were officers, Smith said.
The shooting was believed to be an isolated attack, but as a precaution all other police stations were notified to be on high alert, Smith said.
"They're looking for anyone who might be doing something like this across the city," he said.
The police force was placed on tactical alert, meaning officers were kept on duty at the ends of their shifts as the search proceeded. The citywide alert was later downgraded to a regional alert.
The search comes about four months after a sweeping manhunt for fired Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner ended with him committing suicide in a mountain cabin.
Dorner, who vowed revenge in a rambling online manifesto after he was fired from the LAPD, killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during a Southern California rampage.
A Police Department review later upheld his firing.
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press