Los Angeles police opened fire Friday afternoon while responding to a report of a woman armed with a gun in MacArthur Park, prompting the woman to jump into the park’s lake and engage officers in a watery, three-hour standoff.
Sgt. Frank Preciado, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said officers responded to a radio call about 3 p.m. reporting a woman with a handgun. As the officers made contact with the woman, at least one opened fire.
Preciado said it was unclear how many officers fired their weapons or whether the woman was struck by gunfire. Nor was it immediately known if the woman had shot at the officers, he said.
Immediately after the shooting, the woman jumped into the lake and remained there until about 5:50 p.m., when she left the water and began walking toward the park’s southeast corner. About 20 officers took her into custody. She was taken to a hospital to be checked for injuries, Preciado said.
The LAPD sent divers to the scene and loaded two black inflatable boats into the lake’s western end, but the woman was taken into custody as the dive team was formulating a plan to approach her and they didn’t enter the water, Preciado said.
The sergeant, who called the incident “one for the books,” said police officials who work in the area didn’t recall having previous contact with the woman.
David Hernandez, who frequents the park, said the woman so often swims in the lake that she is known by park regulars as “the Mermaid.” The woman, whose real name Hernandez didn’t know, lives in a tent near 7th and Alvarado streets, he said.
The incident began, Hernandez said, when the woman started shooting at birds with a pistol. The police responded and the woman spent the next three hours alternately floating in the lake and standing in its shallows.
She enthralled a crowd of several hundred people who lined the sidewalk of Wilshire Boulevard; the onlookers hung off the park’s stone railing, filmed the police response — which included the divers and inflatable boats — and urged the woman to come ashore.
The woman floated on her back at times, a purse perched on her stomach, spitting water into the air and yelling something that couldn’t be made out from onshore.
Officers used a loudspeaker to urge the woman to surrender. "We can help you," they said.
At one point, as the woman stood in the shallows about 30 feet from shore, an LAPD officer offered a gray towel while her partner covered her with a shield and what appeared to be a taser. The woman didn’t take up the offer and the towel was left on the concrete sidewalk ringing the lake.
When the woman was finally taken into custody by a swarm of police, a collective “aww” rippled through the crowd lining Wilshire Boulevard. Onlookers returned to their cars, some shaking their heads in bemusement, and drove off into the evening.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.