By Christopher Weber
LOS ANGELES: A gunman who opened fire inside a Los Angeles police station, hitting one officer several times, was hospitalized early Tuesday in critical condition after he was wounded in the ensuing gunbattle, authorities said.
Investigators are searching for a motive in the attack and detectives remained at the scene of Monday night’s shooting in the lobby at the West Traffic Division station. Authorities say the gunman briefly spoke to two officers before he began shooting at them. Despite being wounded, one of the officers was able to return fire and hit the suspect several times.
The officer sustained non-life threatening injuries, Officer Rosario Herrera said. He was in good condition.
Authorities originally said his bulletproof vest took most of the gunfire, but Herrera said Tuesday that he was not wearing a vest.
Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters late Monday the officer was alert and chatting with visitors and texting his friends.
“He is in great spirits, a remarkable young man, very, very lucky,” Beck said.
The officer’s name was not immediately released. The other officer was not struck.
Authorities said the shootout began about 8 p.m. after the gunman entered the lobby and approached two officers who were working at the front desk.
“He engaged in a conversation and then drew a semi-automatic pistol and began shooting,” Beck said outside the police station.
Police shut down a busy street near the station immediately after the shooting, clearing a path for ambulances.
It remained closed well into the night as police investigated, at one point calling in a bomb squad to check out the gunman’s car, which was parked nearby. It was cleared by the bomb squad and impounded.
Police said they knew of no motive for the shooting, which occurred in the lobby of the station about 7 miles west of downtown.
Several people were gathered in another part of the building for a neighborhood council meeting when the shots rang out. Nobody else was injured.
Daphne Brogdon, one of the council members, told the Los Angeles Times that when the gunfire began, she dove behind a lectern, trying to shield herself.
“I hid, and everyone else just hit the ground,” she said. “Everyone was trying to be really quiet, and the shots continued.”
One of her colleagues on the council was next to her.
“We were just holding hands, looking at each other saying, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God,”’ Brogdon told the newspaper.