Claudia Apolinar is being hailed as a hero after bringing her partner to safety in the moments following an ambush while seriously wounded herself. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy was shot multiple times in her patrol car in Compton on Saturday, September 12, 2020, along with her partner.
The young mother and her 24-year-old partner, who both recently joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, were outside the train station when a male opened fire in an ambush attack. Officials described he suspect as a Black male between 28 and 30 years old who was wearing dark clothing at the time of the shooting and last seen in a black four-door sedan. Apolinar and the male deputy were taken to a hospital with serious injuries and underwent emergency surgery. They remained in critical condition at St. Francis Medical Center after the surgery, but both were in stable condition the evening after the shooting. Meanwhile, protesters outside the hospital chanted “We hope you die” while the deputies were “fighting for their lives.”
Apolinar is a former librarian who became a deputy in July 2019. Her father, Adolfo Apolinar, told The Daily Mail he was with his daughter at the hospital on September 14.
A manhunt was underway after the shooting, and authorities released video of the attack. Apolinar’s partner has not been identified.
Here’s what you need to know about Deputy Claudia Apolinar:
1. Apolinar Is a 31-Year-Old Mother of a 6-Year-Old Boy & a Former Librarian
Apolinar is the 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old son, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a press conference in the hours following the shooting. She was shot multiple times, suffering wounds to her jaw and upper torso.
Apolinar worked as a librarian before entering the Los Angeles Police Academy. She worked as an aide for LA County Libraries beginning in 2011, and signed up for the sheriff’s department in 2017, the Daily Mail reported. Apolinar graduated from the academy just last year, according to the Journal Pioneer.
The shooting occurred at the Metro Blue Line station at Willowbrook Avenue and Elm Street at about 7:10 p.m. Saturday, September 12, 2020, according to FOX 11.
“Update: The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation,” LA County Sheriffs wrote on Twitter, releasing a video of the attack.
2. Apolinar Pulled Her Partner to Safety, Applied a Tourniquet to Him & Called for Help in a Released Video & Audio Recording
In the moments after Apolinar was shot through the jaw and upper torso, she applied a tourniquet to her partner, pulled him to safety and radioed for help in a dramatic call, which you can listen to here or below.
“998 Compton Pax,” she says, almost inaudibly, stating the code for a deputy-involved shooting.
“Just happened?” a dispatcher asked.
“Compton Pax, deputies down,” Apolinar responded. “Compton Pax 998.”
A video you can watch here shows her applying a tourniquet to her partner, despite her own wounds.
Officer William Jones shared the audio recording on Twitter, writing, “Valor, Courage, Composure… The WILL to WIN. This female deputy was able to put out the ‘Help Call’ calmly & not panicked after a sick coward shot her & her partner in the face & head. I continue to pray for their recovery & the capture of the suspect.”
The deputy’s family told FOX 11 Reporter Bill Melugin about her act of heroism.
“NEW: LASD & the families of the two ambushed deputies have given me permission to show this graphic photo of the moment after they were shot. I’m told female deputy was shot through jaw, still radioed for help & applied tourniquet to male deputy’s wounds. Both stable now.
@FOXLA” he wrote on Twitter.
3. LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Said He Swore Apolinar In Himself Just 14 Months Ago & She Has a ‘Long Path to Recovery’
Apolinar and her partner were new to the force. Villanueva said at a press conference he swore in both deputies himself just 14 months before they were seriously wounded in a shooting. Apolinar’s husband was there with her after the shooting. Villanueva said he was “dismayed” and that it “pisses [him] off” that a person would target his deputies, who he swore into his department personally.
A week earlier, he said, deputies were shot at as they attempted to serve a search warrant.
The deputies were members of the Transit Services Bureau, according to FOX 11. Villaneuva told Fox News September 15 the deputies remain in the intensive care unit and they will have “a long path to recovery.”
He said investigators are “making in roads” and have “promising leads” into identifying a suspect. Private donors added to a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspect. The reward money reached $200,000 September 15.
“If you know something please pick up the phone and say something because this a dangerous suspect that we definitely need to bring to justice,” he said.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the attack in the hours after the shooting.
“Animals that must be hit hard!” he wrote.
In a statement September 14, Trump said that anyone who murders a police officer should receive the death penalty.
4. Apolinar’s Dad, Adolfo, Is With Her in the Hospital & a Deputy Is Standing Guard
Adolfo Apolinar, 65, told the Daily Mail September 15 he was staying by his daughter’s bedside in the hospital, keeping vigil, and that an LA Sheriff’s deputy was standing guard over her outside the hospital room.
“I’m here with her right now,” he told a reporter in Spanish.
Lieutenant Brandon Dean, the lead investigator on the case, told the news outlet that both deputies suffered injuries that will change their lives.
“By the grace of God they’re both going to pull through. They’re obviously pretty injured and it’s going to be life-altering but they’re in stable condition,” he said.
He also praised the ‘will to survive, their will to protect each other, their will to protect the public’ of both Apolinar and her partner.
“They didn’t give up, they didn’t cower down,” he said. “They got out and took care of each other, took cover, made sure it wasn’t an active shooter situation. You’ve got to praise them for their courage and ability to fight for their lives and everybody else’s lives.”
“It’s an extreme situation,” Dean continued. “She was shot in the face, shot in the upper torso several times. To have the wherewithal to get yourself out of the vehicle and the line of fire in case it continues, but then to take care of your partner, initiate radio traffic make sure the civilians in the area are safe, it shows a lot about her courage and intestinal fortitude.”
5. Protesters Outside the Hospital Chanted ‘We Hope You Die’ as Apolinar Was ‘Fighting for Her Life’ & LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Said the Attack Is Part of a Pattern of Violence on Law Enforcement
Video outside St. Francis Medical Center shows protesters shouting and “oinking” while blocking the entrance to the hospital. At one point, the protesters tried to get inside the emergency room, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The video shows the protesters shouting “f*** the police” and “We hope you die.” One protester told an officer responding to the protest, “That’s why you all die one by one.”
Villanueva spoke about the protests with Fox News September 15.
“It’s just a new low for hatred that I don’t think anyone in this nation has ever seen before,” he said.
The response of the handful of protesters, he said, was something he would not expect to see in America.
“We’re here fighting to save people’s lives across the country. It doesn’t matter who you are,” he said.
Two people were arrested, including a reporter, Josie Huang. She was documenting the protests and captured the incident on video. Read more about her arrest, read her account and see video of the arrest here.
Villanueva detailed the shooting at a press conference in the hours after the shooting, and said he sees the ambush as a part of a growing trend of violence toward law enforcement.
“Every week in the nation, someone is losing their life in the line of duty, so this is just another grim reminder of that,” he said. “The two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business, watching out for the safety of the people on the train, and seeing somebody just walking up and start shooting on them, it pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time. There’s no pretty way to say it.”
The department is stretched thin between response to protests, fires and other calls, and deputies are working 12-hour shifts, Villaneuva said. Now, he said, deputies will also be watching their backs for unprovoked attacks.
“As you can tell we’re stretched…” he said at the press conference, and paused to wait for the sound of nearby sirens to dissipate. “We have the civil unrest and protests in south LA, we have the Bobcat Fire, we have situations in downtown LA. We have a lot different situations going on at the same time. Our deputies are working very long hours these days, and this is just going to add to the things that we have to be alert for. We have to start a buddy system, watching out for each others back.”