- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
An off-duty Los Angeles police officer was shot and killed during an armed robbery attempt Monday night in an unincorporated area of South L.A., authorities said.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the officer, Fernando Arroyos, 27, had just worked a series of days in patrol and had a day off on Monday, when he joined his girlfriend "on a hunt for a house, a place to live, a place to buy and invest in the city and in the future of this region."
They had just parked their car and were crossing a street to look at a home there when three suspects drove up. "The officer yelled for his girlfriend to leave to run to go back to the car," Moore said, and then exchanged gunfire with the suspects.
L.A. County sheriff's deputies from the Century station who arrived at the scene took the wounded officer in their patrol car to St. Francis Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
Arroyos had been with the LAPD for three years, was assigned to the Olympic Division and had "a very promising career" ahead of him, Moore said during a meeting of the Police Commission.
Moore said earlier that two weapons were recovered at the scene of the shooting, which unfolded about 9:15 p.m. Monday in the 8700 block of Beach Street in Florence-Firestone.
"We do have our officer's gun, and we have an additional weapon that we believe was responsible for this assault," Moore said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said the officer "died a hero trying to defend himself and his girlfriend."
Garcetti said he spoke to the officer's mother and stepfather at the hospital Monday night.
"My heart is broken. Our city's heart is broken. And certainly our LAPD family's hearts all grieve," Garcetti said.
"We know we need the community's help. But we also have every faith and confidence that we'll be identifying the person or persons responsible for this terrible act and this grievous loss," Moore said outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood shortly after the officer succumbed to his wounds.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his homicide investigators are looking for the suspects in the shooting.
Sheriff's Capt. Joe Mendoza, who oversees the department's Homicide Bureau, said his detectives had detained three men and two women, and were questioning them about the shooting.
"We haven't reached the point of charging anyone, but I would describe them as persons of interest," Mendoza said, adding that police expected to make a formal arrest in the case soon.
Detectives have been working around the clock on the case, he said.
Investigators are also looking into another shooting that occurred nearby that night, Mendoza said. They believe it may be connected to the killing of the officer.
LAPD Lt. Rex Ingram, who supervised Arroyos and spoke with him often at Olympic Division, said Arroyos had two dreams in life: to be first in his family to go to college and to be an LAPD officer, and that he more than achieved that.
"The first time I read one of his reports I knew his writing skills were far superior to his peers and, frankly, some ways above the ability of his superiors," Ingram said. "So, I asked him where he went to school, and he, being humble, says 'LAUSD.' And I reply, 'Which college?' and he says, 'Cal Berkeley.'"
Arroyos was a devout Christian who grew up in a household with his mother, grandmother and stepfather, attended 42nd Street Elementary School and Audubon Middle School before graduating from Crenshaw High and heading to Berkeley, where he earned a degree in legal studies, Ingram said.
"He could have gone to law school or FBI like his peers with that education, but he wanted to serve his community and give back," Ingram said. "He loved his community…. He was very close to his family."
Ingram said Arroyos met his girlfriend at a dry cleaning business in southwest L.A. about two years ago.
"They were looking to get a home in the area," Ingram said. "This was the humblest and happiest guy I know on the job. This couldn't happen to a nicer person."
LAPD officers and sheriff's deputies in patrol cars formed a procession from St. Francis Medical Center, where Arroyos was pronounced dead, to the Los Angeles County coroner's office in Boyle Heights as coroner's officials transported the officer's body. Firefighters used ladder trucks to form an arch over the road near St. Francis as the procession drove past in the predawn hours Tuesday.
"Today we grieve the loss of a young officer who was murdered while off duty. As we mourn his tragic loss, we ask that you keep his family and partners in your thoughts and prayers," the LAPD said in a statement.
The L.A. police officers union added: "We pray for the officer’s family, and their fellow officers, during this time of pain and sorrow. This is an active investigation."
L.A. Police Commission President William Briggs said during a commission meeting Tuesday morning that the officer "died at the hands of vicious cowards" while defending himself and his girlfriend. Briggs offered the commission's "heartfelt condolences to the officer's family, friends, and loved ones."
Tonight, we mourn the loss of one of our officers who was shot & killed in an armed robbery attempt. The officer was off-duty. We pray for the officer’s family, and their fellow officers, during this time of pain and sorrow. This is an active investigation. More info to follow. pic.twitter.com/6xpiAXjr5W
— LAPPL (@LAPPL) January 11, 2022
Florence-Firestone has been among the neighborhoods hardest hit by the surge in homicides in L.A. since the pandemic began. According to county coroner data, there were 24 homicides in the neighborhood in the first 11 months of last year, compared to nine during the same period in 2020 and 12 in 2019. Last year's total was the highest in a decade, according to the data.
Florence-Firestone and adjoining Watts, which also saw more than 20 homicides in 2021, cover less than six square miles combined, and yet accounted for nearly a sixth of the city's 397 homicides in 2021, according to the homicide figures.
Times staff writer Henry Chu and City News Service contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.