An officer fatally shot while in the parking lot of the Downey police headquarters’ parking lot was specifically targeted, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials Thursday.
Officer Ricardo Galvez, known as ‘Ricky’ to his friends and co-workers, was sitting in the driver’s seat of his car Wednesday night when two male suspects fired at the officer. Ricky was a five-year US Marine Reservist.
“Words cannot express the love and respect we have for Ricky,” said Downey Police Chief Carl Charles. “Our department is hurting.”
The shooting comes at a time of rising violent crime rates in many US cities and concern among police about what some have called the "Ferguson effect." Some officers now feel besieged.
“Nobody says it on the record, nobody says it in public, but police and elected officials are quietly saying it to themselves,” FBI Director James Comey said in a speech in late October at the University of Chicago Law School. He said officers in one big city precinct told him, “We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.”
According to data from the Officer Down Memorial Page, six California officers have already been killed thus far in 2015, but Officer Galvez is the first from Los Angeles.
Downey is a city 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
Chief Charles describes Galvez as a “tremendous young man who loved serving the residents of Downey.”
“His smile was infectious, and his professionalism was always on display,” he adds.
Another officer heard the gunshots and pursued the suspects into Montebello, a neighboring city. SWAT officials set up a perimeter and evacuated several apartment buildings, looking for the suspects.
Victor Bocanegra, a Montebello resident, said police knocked on his door at 2 am Thursday morning and escorted his family out of their home.
“They’ve evacuated some buildings and some townhomes,” Mr. Bocanegra told KABC-TV. “My family’s scared.”
The search for the two men was underway Thursday, says homicide Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Three suspects have been detained and authorities continue to search for one more person of interest.
“It appears that this officer was targeted,” says Lt. Corina. “It doesn’t look like it was random.” But authorities didn’t say whether they thought Galvez was targeted for personal reasons or simply because of his profession.
Homicide detectives are still studying surveillance footage of the parking lot, but Corina said investigators think the two shooters knew Galvez.
Galvez was ending his shift at the time of the shooting.
The investigation is ongoing.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.