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Handcuffed suspect wounds LAPD veteran with gun hidden in pants

By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
The Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A man who was handcuffed by police during an early morning arrest Monday in the Westlake district of Los Angeles managed to reach for a gun hidden in his pants and opened fire, seriously wounding a veteran officer, according to several LAPD sources familiar with the investigation.

Rampart Division training officer Andy Taylor, 37, was rushed by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and chest.

The 12-year veteran, who was in stable condition, also was hit in his bulletproof vest.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said the officer could be released from the hospital as early as today.

Bratton said he would withhold comment on the specifics of the shooting until he was presented with a full preliminary briefing by investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Force Investigation Division.

Department officials said Taylor was one of several officers who responded to an apartment building in the 600 block of Coronado Street about 5 a.m. after a report of an assault there.

According to the LAPD sources, who spoke to The Times on the condition that they not be named, the officers questioned several men in a second-floor residence at the multiunit complex.

A rookie officer, whom department officials did not identify, searched and handcuffed one of the suspects before leading him out into the hallway where Taylor was standing, the sources said.

As the officers talked to the other men, the suspect reached into his pants and pulled out a handgun, firing at least two shots that struck Taylor, the sources said.

Two other officers emerged from the apartment, firing multiple times before killing the suspect.

The dead man suffered at least two gunshot wounds.

Department officials said four people -- two men and two women -- were taken into custody. The women were later released; at least one of the men was held on a parole violation.

At a morning news conference, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa blamed gang violence for the increase in assaults against police officers, though it was unknown if gangs were involved in Monday’s incident.

“One of the reasons why we’re targeting gangs, and we’re not sure who these suspects are ... is because too much of this kind of activity occurs in [the] city of Los Angeles and we’ve got to do something about it,” Villaraigosa said.

Bratton expressed concern that the shooting was part of a spike in attacks on officers so far this year compared with last year.

He said there have been 10 instances in less than a month in which suspects have shot at officers.

LAPD statistics show that although attacks on police increased to 109 last year from 99 in 2005, they are still down from 2002, when there were nearly 130 incidents.

But the numbers also show that the increase in the last three years mirrors an uptick in reported gang crime. Gangs have been tied to several recent officer shootings.

Earlier this month, 13-year LAPD veteran Mark Wilbur was shot in the thigh while he and other officers were investigating a report of armed gang members at a house in Panorama City.

In August, Officer James Tuck was seriously injured when a man with an AK47-style assault weapon opened fire on him during a traffic stop in Montecito Heights.

In perhaps the most high-profile incident, Officer Kristina Ripatti was left paralyzed from the chest down when she was shot in June by an armed robber who also was described as a gang member.

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