A security video from inside the Los Angeles Police station where a veteran officer was attacked this weekend shows the officer get knocked to the ground and repeatedly pistol-whipped with his own gun before the attacker points the gun at the officer’s chest at close range.
The video, obtained by The Times, reveals for the first time the full and potentially deadly nature of the Saturday night attack on the 37-year department veteran inside the Harbor Community station in San Pedro.
Police sources said investigators believe the man repeatedly pulled the trigger, creating a clicking sound each time, but that a safety mechanism on the gun prevented it from firing — saving the officer’s life.
Jose Cerpa Guzman, the alleged assailant, is being held on suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer on $2.23 million bail. The officer, who has not been identified, was taken to a local hospital but escaped with “bumps and bruises,” according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.
Police have said that Guzman and a watch commander who came upon the scene exchanged gunfire during the incident, and that the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division is investigating the attack.
In the video, Guzman, 29, walks into the station lobby shortly after 10 p.m. The desk officer sees him and approaches near the front glass doors.
After what appears to be a heated exchange of words, Guzman, dressed in a white short-sleeve shirt and dark pants, walks away and heads out the front door. But as the officer walks toward the door, Guzman comes back inside.
The video shows Guzman shoving the officer back and taking a swing at him. He 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.
With the officer on the ground and Guzman standing over him, Guzman grabs a 9mm Beretta handgun the officer is carrying in a holster, tugging at it.
As both men wrestle on the ground, Guzman takes the gun in his hand and the officer tries to control Guzman’s arm to prevent him from using the weapon. Guzman points the gun at the veteran officer’s chest and chin as they grapple with each other, their arms locked together.
As Guzman breaks free, he leans over the officer and brings down the butt of the handgun four times on the officer’s face and head. The officer uses his hands to attempt to deflect the blows and eventually knocks the gun out of Guzman’s hand. The gun drops to the floor briefly, but Guzman grabs it again.
On his knees with the officer still on his back, Guzman can be seen aiming the gun at close range at the officer’s chest and throat. He then frees himself from the officer’s grasp and dashes back toward the station doors.
An LAPD watch commander comes into the lobby from behind the front desk, sees her colleague on the floor and spots Guzman running out the door still holding the officer’s handgun. As she rushes toward the door, she stops, draws her handgun and takes a shooting stance. It is unclear from the video footage whether she fires at that point.
Guzman, however, allegedly fires a gun, forcing the watch commander to dive to her left for cover behind a part of the lobby wall. She is seen again pointing her gun out the door. LAPD officials say she fired her weapon and allege Guzman shot three times. A third officer then enters the lobby with his gun drawn. Throughout the exchange of gunfire, the officer who was initially attacked lays on his left side near the left side of the lobby.
Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the incident said investigators believe that Guzman tried to shoot the officer in the chest, stomach and chin but the gun’s decocking lever prevented it from firing.
“The officer would have been dead if it had not,” said one LAPD official familiar with the investigation but not authorized to discuss the attack.
The watch commander immediately radioed the attack, alerting officers to the fleeing suspect in a white truck, saying shots had been fired at the Harbor station and an officer needed help. A second officer reported that a white truck with the suspect inside was heading southbound on Harbor Boulevard.
“We’ve got an officer down, conscious, breathing,” said an officer over the radio, who was tending to their injured colleague.
Several blocks away, the white truck with Guzman inside was stopped by police at gunpoint at West 18th Street and Pacific Avenue. There, officers wrestled with the suspect, who was later hospitalized with injuries. According to sources, one officer suffered a broken hand. Inside the truck, officers found their colleague’s handgun.
Moore said the officer who was assaulted in the lobby had bumps and bruises and would recover from his injuries.
“I am grateful that the officer who was in this incident tonight, who was working the desk, came out to assist this individual to understand what his needs were, that he survived and that during this engagement that he did not lose his life,” Moore said while speaking to reporters after visiting the officer. “He did not suffer the injury that apparently this suspect meant to inflict.”
Cmdr. Al Labrada, assistant head of South Bureau, said the officer was released from the hospital and is recovering at home. “He is making a good recovery,” Labrada said.
Moore did not respond to a request for comment on the video Monday. Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the department will address the attack in a “critical incident report” within 45 days, according to department policy.
Guzman has no history of charges in Los Angeles County. Public records show he has lived in the Harbor City area for several years. The LAPD has not revealed the motive for the attack or what Guzman said in the lobby.
Craig Lally, president of the union that represents LAPD officers, said the attack was unprovoked with “no rhyme or reason to it” — just like the shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies in Compton earlier this month. The deputies were seated in their car at the time of the shooting, which they survived.
“It just shows you how dangerous this job is now,” Lally said. “You don’t even have to be responding to a call now. You can just be sitting in a car in a uniform or sitting at a desk in a uniform and get attacked.”