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Calif. officer shot, suspect in custody after manhunt

By Ari Bloomekatz and Andrew Blankstein
The Los Angeles Times

GARDENIA, Calif. — Scores of police officers with shotguns, high-powered rifles and bloodhounds went house to house late Wednesday in pursuit of three men involved in the shooting of a Gardena patrolman. One suspect was found hiding in a backyard hot tub, authorities said.

"We believe he is the shooter," said Gardena Police Lt. Ed Burnett.

The search by more than 200 officers and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies spread over 14 blocks around a Pizza Hut at Normandie and Rosecrans avenues, where the officer was shot in a running gun battle shortly before noon, Burnett said. The officer, whose name was not released, underwent surgery for two wounds in the right thigh and was in stable condition, he added.

The officer had pulled into the restaurant parking lot when he saw three men running across Rosecrans, a major thoroughfare, Burnett said. When he ordered the men to stop, they scattered, he said.

The officer chased one of the men behind the restaurant, where they exchanged at least 10 rounds of gunfire, Burnett said. The gunman was armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

Police were unsure why the men were running across the street, Burnett said.

Though a veteran officer, the patrolman has been with the Gardena Police Department for only about a year, officials said.

"I saw the police officer shooting at the suspects," the owner of a neighborhood discount store said. "I heard six to seven shots fired: bang, bang, bang."

After cordoning off several blocks, officers from various departments scoured the neighborhood.

At least two police helicopters, equipped with heat sensors to detect movement on the ground, told the men over loudspeakers to "come out now, and you will not be harmed."

Just before 8 p.m., the dogs picked up a scent and led officers to a backyard on 147th Street, about four blocks from the shooting scene, Burnett said. A man found in the water with the hot tub lid down matched the description of the shooter and was taken into custody, Burnett said. The man was not immediately identified.

The search for the other two men continued into the night. Police advised residents to stay inside and bring their pets indoors.

Some neighbors said they were stunned by the daytime shooting.

Anthony White, 40, said he and his family had moved into the neighborhood three months ago. He said before he bought a house he drove around the residential area several times at night to see whether it was safe.

"It was really quiet," he said. "I was shocked, because it's like a desert."

But Sheila Miller, a teaching assistant at nearby 153rd Street School, said she had lived in the neighborhood for four years and that there is gang and drug activity.

She said there were two homicides on her street in the last year. The school voluntarily locked down after the shooting, she said.

"It's sad because police should be here to protect us," she said. "It's getting to be a place where you can't let your children go outside."

Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

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