Confusion after LAPD responds to reports of gunfire at pro-Trump car caravan

Alex Wigglesworth, Richard Winton, Angel Jennings, Matthew Ormseth
·3 mins read
An LAPD officer and a Trump supporter cross the street between two groups of protesters in Studio City on Sunday. <span class="copyright">(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)</span>
An LAPD officer and a Trump supporter cross the street between two groups of protesters in Studio City on Sunday. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A car caravan of President Trump supporters parading down Ventura Boulevard turned chaotic Sunday as Los Angeles police searched for three people who might have been involved in an incident connected to the event.

No one was hurt at the rally, and police were still trying to determine exactly what happened.

Authorities were searching for three people in Woodland Hills after police received reports that one of them may have fired some type of weapon at the caravan. It was unclear whether there was physical evidence of gunfire or if the reports were based solely on witness accounts.

Police received a report that a man was firing at the caravan as it traveled along Ventura Boulevard near Chalk Hill Court shortly before 11:30 a.m, said Officer Will Cooper of the Los Angeles Police Department. The incident was initially described as someone brandishing a firearm and throwing bottles at the vehicles but was later updated to include a report of shots fired, he said.

The caravan, composed of cars displaying pro-Trump flags, was heading from Woodland Hills to Studio City.

A woman who was driving east on Ventura past the procession heard what sounded like gunshots and noticed her tire went flat, Los Angeles police said in a news release. When she inspected it, she found it had been damaged by a projectile, possibly a bullet or a bullet fragment, police said.

Another witness told police there was a potential suspect in a nearby apartment building, prompting officers to lock down the Ventura Boulevard complex and evacuate the units.

Jorge Rodriguez, deputy chief of the LAPD Valley Bureau, said the department obtained a photo of a man with a rifle on the balcony of an apartment unit. It's unclear what kind of rifle he was holding.

Cooper said the alleged assailant and two others barricaded themselves inside the building in the 20500 block of Ventura Boulevard.

About 4 p.m., a SWAT unit entered the apartment unit but found no one inside, said Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman. Before making entry, officers launched a chemical irritant into the unit to try to flush out any occupants, he said.

Detectives were at the scene collecting evidence to help find the suspects. Only one of the three is being sought as a potential shooter, Rubenstein said. The others were believed to have been inside the unit when the incident was reported.

Deputy Chief Jorge Rodriguez said the LAPD is conducting a search warrant at the apartment and that men were seen fleeing the scene.

“It was not a BB," he said. "It was possibly a .22 caliber, .25 caliber weapon based on the evidence at the car."

Residents in the area said the police standoff was unnerving, but they were not sure whether there was a shooting.

A helicopter hovered above Tina Johnson’s apartment complex as she went to the pool for a quick swim.

She had heard that police were investigating a shooting nearby but didn’t realize how close. Then the leasing manager warned her there was a shooter barricaded in the building next door.

Johnson and her boyfriend returned to their apartment and locked the doors and windows.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Johnson, 23, said. In liberal California, she had “never met a Trump supporter.”

But now, here they were, a caravan with Trump flags waving on the back of their pickup trucks cruising down Ventura Boulevard.

The sight and the subsequent confrontation seemed like something that might happen in the South, but not here.

“We wouldn’t have ever imagined it would happen in California,” Johnson said.

Times staff writer Kevin Rector and photographer Francine Orr contributed to this report.