Deonte Murray was identified as the suspect in the shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies in Compton after investigators said forensic testing tied him to the gun used in the shooting.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced September 30 Murray, 36, was charged in the shooting of the two deputies, Claudia Apolinar and her 24-year-old male partner, who has not been identified. They were shot September 12 outside the Compton PAX, where they were on patrol. Murray, whose full name is Deonte Lee Murray, was arrested in the days following the ambush for a carjacking in Lynwood.
The two deputies suffered serious injuries and were taken to St. Francis for treatment, where protesters gathered and chanted “We hope you die.” Both deputies are now recovering at home, but will face reconstructive surgeries, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villenueva. He said he expects them to return to the force once they are fully recovered.
Authorities released video of the ambush shooting, which showed a male walk up to the patrol car, point a gun and flee. That video helped investigators identify Murray as a suspect, along with witness statements, forensics and ballistics testing, officials said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Video of the Shooting of 2 Deputies Outside a Train Station in Compton Helped Investigators Identify Murray as a Suspect
The Two LASD deputies, Claudia Apolinar and her partner, were shot multiple times while sitting in their patrol vehicle outside the Compton train station. Apolinar pulled her partner to safety, applied a tourniquet and called for help despite a bullet wound to her jaw. She is a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy and the man is 24. They were both sworn in just 14 months ago, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The video shows the suspect walk up to the police car, point a gun toward the window and run away. It aided officials in identifying Murray as a suspect, District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. She said she believes they have strong evidence in the case, and officials said witnesses have been forthcoming with information.
Captain Kent Wegener with the LASD homicide division said at the Sept. 30 press conference the suspect fired five rounds at the deputies. You can watch the press conference here or below. Murray’s photo is not being released to preserve the integrity of the case, Wegener said.
“You can get a lot of rounds off in two seconds,” Villanueva said at a press conference in the hours after the shooting.
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.
Murray was taken into custody Sept. 15 for the Lynwood carjacking, and he was moved into the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 29, the day before charges were announced in the ambush.
Here is his jail record:
The Twin Towers Correctional Facility, also called Twin Towers Jail, is operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to the facility’s website. The facility is named for its two towers, and also includes a medical building and “the nation’s largest mental health facility,” the website says.
2. Murray Was Charged With Attempted Murder of Peace Officers & Already Faced Charges in a Carjacking
Murray was arrested on Sept. 15, three days after law enforcement officers allege he shot the deputies. His arrest was in connection with a carjacking in which police allege Murray confronted a man in Lynwood, shot him in the leg and stole his car Sept. 1. He was charged with one felony count each of carjacking, second-degree robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm on Sept. 17, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office provided to Heavy. He was later charged with an additional count of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Los Angeles law enforcement allege Murray stole a black Mercedes Benz in the carjacking, and witnesses told investigators the man who attacked the deputies fled in a black Mercedes Benz, Wegener said. As police pursued Murray to arrest him in the carjacking, they said he tossed a .40-caliber gun, which police called a “ghost gun.” Forensic testing matched the gun to the shooting used in the attack on the deputies, and further testing connected the gun to Murray, he said. Officials believe Murray acted alone in the ambush.
Officials amended Murray’s criminal complaint Sept. 30 to add charges related to the ambush. He now also faces two counts each of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer and possession of a firearm by a felon, District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced.
Prosecutors recommended bail be set at $6.15 million. If Murray is convicted of his charges, he could face a possible maximum life sentence in state prison. He also faces allegations of association with a criminal street gang, discharging a rifle inflicting great bodily injury and personal use of a rifle in the carjacking incident, Lacey said.
Deputy District Attorney Jacques Garden of the Crimes Against Peace Officers Division will prosecute the case, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation.
LASD and assisting law enforcement agencies led a manhunt for the suspect, who remained at large as the wounded deputies were “fighting for their lives.” Officials released video of the shooting, hoping it would assist in their investigation.
Officials said in a press conference following the shooting they expected additional cameras captured footage of the shooting and the suspect. You can watch the full press conference here.
The FBI also offered to assist in the investigation.
“”FBI Los Angeles has offered resources and stands ready to assist in response to reports of an attack on @lasdhq deputies tonight,” FBI Los Angeles wrote on Twitter.
3. Murray Is a Convicted Felon With a Criminal History Including Drug Dealing & Burglary
Murray is no stranger to the law, officials said at a Sept. 30 press conference. He is a convicted felon with a criminal history including sale and possession of narcotics, possession of a firearm by a felon or addict, terroristic threats and burglary.
Murray, of Compton, was arraigned on his charges related to the ambush the afternoon of September 30, according to his jail record and booking information. He faced an arraignment at Compton Superior Court Department D, and his bail was set at $1,140,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for November 4, 2020.
Here is his jail record and booking information:
Law enforcement who responded to the shooting asked one of the wounded deputies for a description of the suspect. With multiple gunshot wounds, they were not able to immediately conduct an interview, and he identified the suspect only as “a dark-skinned male,” officials said at the Sept. 12 press conference. They hoped to conduct a more thorough interview when the deputy recovered.
LA County Sheriffs tweeted updates on the shooting throughout the evening.
“Moments ago, 2 of our Sheriff Deputies were shot in Compton and were transported to a local hospital. They are both still fighting for their lives, so please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We will update this thread with information as it becomes available,” they wrote on Twitter at about 8 p.m. Sept. 12.
They later posted an update, writing, “Update: One male deputy and one female deputy were ambushed as they sat in their patrol vehicle. Both sustained multiple gunshot wounds and are in critical condition. They are both currently undergoing surgery. The suspect is still at large.”
4. Officials Said Murray ‘Obviously Hates Police Officers’ & Anti Police Protesters Gathered Outside the Hospital Shouting ‘We Hope You Die,’ Video Showed
Wegener said Murray “obviously hates police officers and he wants them dead,” but would not release a possible motive in the shooting in their Sept. 30 statement.
While the two sheriff deputies were “fighting for their lives,” protesters were gathering outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where the deputies were being treated. Protesters captured video of themselves, which showed them “oinking” and saying they hoped the deputies died. LASD demanded the protesters clear the area, saying they were causing a hazard by blocking the hospital’s entrance and exit. At one point, the protesters tried to get into the emergency room, officials said.
“To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling ‘We hope they die’ referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through,” LA County Sheriffs wrote on Twitter.
Villenueva reflected on the day of the shooting during the Sept. 30 press conference.
On September 12 of this year in Compton we saw the worst in humanity – a cowardly act where a suspect ambushed and shot and attempted to kill two of our deputies on the Compton PAX. This cowardly ambush was followed by bystanders celebrating and cheering that the deputies had been shot, and that was followed to the hospital, the quiet sanctity of a hospital, with protesters cheering and chanting for the deputies to die. These acts and that day, I will not forget it, and it represents the worst in humanity, and it shocked the whole nation. And that evening, I said, ‘We will find this man,’ and I can report today: We have found our suspect.
Villenueva said he also saw “the best in humanity” in response to the shooting, with law enforcement rallying together to solve the crime and with the community and people across the country supporting the wounded deputies.
“Sometimes, from the worst comes the best, and this was an example of that,” he said.
5. LA County Sheriff Villanueva Said the Ambush Represents a Growing Trend of Violence Against Law Enforcement
Lacey sent “best wishes” to Apolinar and her partner Sept. 30, acknowledging their “long road to recovery” and thanking them and their families for their service.
“They became victims of a violent crime for one reason – They were doing their job, and they were wearing a badge,” she said. “These two people have committed their lives to protecting our community, and for their service and sacrifice, I want to thank them and their families.”
Villanueva detailed the shooting on two of his deputies 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. 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.”
He elaborated on the trend in his Sept. 30 statement, saying he has seen a 200% increase in attacks on law enforcement between 2019 and 2020. In some violent protests, he said, deputies have been attacked with bricks, mortars and bottles. It is important to draw a distinction between peaceful protests and violent protests, he said.
“It’s part of the environment we’re in right now,” Villenueva said of the attack. “It’s a scary situation in the sense that people have such deep-seated hatred toward law enforcement they’re willing to just kill unprovoked.”