Video from a Los Angeles police officer's body camera provides an up-close view of a bloody life-and-death struggle inside the Harbor station in San Pedro as a suspect knocks the officer to the ground, grabs his gun, repeatedly pistol whips him and briefly points it at him.
The LAPD on Wednesday released a 21-minute video that captures the attack on Officer Anthony Freeman, which occurred shortly after 10 p.m. Sept. 26. The video includes footage from surveillance cameras inside and outside the station, along with the officer's body camera, which captures Freeman's blood splattering across the lobby floor and puddling around him.
The suspect, Jose Cerpa Guzman, 29, escaped and was eventually captured after a high-speed car pursuit through San Pedro. He has been charged with two counts each of attempted murder on a peace officer and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, as well as second-degree robbery and evading and resisting an officer, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s office said. The officer was treated at a hospital for cuts, bruises and soft tissue injuries and released. The 36-year veteran has not returned to work.
The Los Angeles Police Department's release of the video comes a week after The Times published footage from a security camera inside the Harbor station that captured one view of the attack.
The footage released Wednesday does not include audio of the attack because the officer had not yet activated his device when it began. Prior to the activation of a body camera, two or three minutes of footage is saved without audio.
Just before the attack, the suspect is seen parking his truck directly in front of the station, then repeatedly opening and closing the tailgate before walking into the station. The desk officer sees him and approaches near the front glass doors. After what appears to be an exchange of words, the man, dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt, dark pants and a large hat, walks away and heads out the front door. As the officer walks toward the door, the man turns around and comes back inside.
Body cam footage shows the man shoving the officer back and taking a swing at him. The man takes a boxing stance and then continues to move toward the officer, throwing another punch as the officer is backing up. The officer is knocked off his feet by a blow to the head and falls backward as his feet go in the air. His equipment belt spills several items across the lobby floor.
The officer, sensing the suspect going for his gun, grabs the man by the throat. But the man manages to yank the officer's service pistol out, and the 9-millimeter Beretta handgun comes into the full frame of the officer's camera lens. The footage shows the man slamming the handgun's butt on the officer's head four times before the officer grabs his right wrist, knocking the gun free.
The man then grabs the weapon again from the floor and points it at the officer's chest. Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the incident said investigators believe the man tried to shoot the officer in the chest, stomach and chin, but the gun’s decocking lever prevented it from firing.
The video then shows an LAPD assistant watch commander coming into the lobby from behind the front desk, where she sees her colleague on the floor. The officer who was attacked yells, "He's got my gun, he's got my gun." As Sgt. Robin Aguirre rushes toward the door, she stops, draws her handgun and exchanges fire with the attacker.
The attacker's shots force Aguirre to dive for cover behind a part of the lobby wall. The first officer's body camera footage captures his blood, now in puddles around him on the lobby floor as he gasps for breath.
As Guzman's truck tires screech away, the officer tries to get up but realizes he is too badly hurt. He tells a colleague to call for medical help. "I am starting to black out," he says.
The assistant watch commander immediately radios the attack, alerting officers to a man fleeing in a white truck, reporting shots fired at the station and that an officer needed help. Another officer reports that a white truck with the suspect inside was heading south on Harbor Boulevard.
“We’ve got an officer down, conscious, breathing,” an officer says over the radio.
Several blocks away, police stopped the truck at gunpoint at West 18th Street and Pacific Avenue. There, the video shows the suspect being ordered out of the truck with officers repeatedly yelling at him to show his hands.
Officers wrestle with the suspect on the ground and Guzman is heard yelling as officers eventually handcuff him.
The officer's handgun was found inside Guzman's truck, according to the LAPD's communications director, Josh Rubenstein. Police have not yet revealed a possible motive for the attack.
Steve Gordon, a retired LAPD SWAT officer, said after viewing the video that the officer's gun was decocked and could not fire.
"There's a decent chance that the suspect inadvertently engaged the decocker safety on the pistol as he was striking the officer with it," Gordon said. He added that if the suspect had attempted to pull the trigger, there would not even have been a click.
Gordon said the man was either able to disengage the decocker or did it by accident as he fled when he fired at the LAPD supervisor.
The LAPD has also launched an investigation into how the station's security camera footage of the attack was leaked initially to The Times and then to other media outlets.
The incident was one of several attacks on law enforcement officers in the Los Angeles area in recent weeks. On Sept. 12, two L.A. County sheriff's deputies were shot in Compton, and on Sept. 26, a West Valley LAPD officer came under gunfire after leaving the station while off duty.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.