Attempted murder charges filed in police station attack on LAPD officer

A suspect who was seen on video pistol-whipping an officer was charged with two counts of attempted murder

By Kevin Rector
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors filed attempted murder charges Tuesday against the man accused in a violent attack on a Los Angeles police officer inside the Harbor Community police station Saturday night.

Jose Cerpa Guzman, 29, was charged with two counts each of attempted murder on a peace officer and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, as well as second-degree robbery and evading and resisting an officer, District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore discusses an attack on a police officer on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore discusses an attack on a police officer on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

Video of the attack, obtained and published by the Los Angeles Times on Monday, shows an assailant — identified by police as Guzman — enter the lobby of the station, exchange words with an officer working the front desk, briefly leave and then come back in and start swinging on the 37-year veteran officer, who stumbles backwards before falling to the ground.

It then shows the assailant take the officer’s gun off of him, repeatedly pistol-whip the officer and point the gun at the officer’s chest at close range. Police sources said investigators believe the attacker repeatedly pulled the trigger, but that a safety mechanism on the gun prevented it from firing and saved the officer’s life.

[WATCH: Video shows attack on LAPD officer inside police station]

After, police said Guzman and a watch commander at the station exchanged gunfire as Guzman fled the scene. He was followed by other officers and arrested shortly after. Police said no one was injured in the shooting, and the officer who was attacked escaped with what LAPD Chief Michel Moore called “bumps and bruises.”

Lacey’s office said Guzman faces life in state prison if convicted of the crimes he’s been charged with.

Guzman could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he had an attorney as of Tuesday, when he was to be arraigned.

The LAPD is continuing to investigate the incident.

It is also investigating how the video of the attack made its way into the hands of the Times.

Addressing the incident before the Police Commission on Tuesday morning, Moore denounced attacks on officers — including another recent incident in which an off-duty officer was shot at in his car after leaving a station. He said investigators are continuing to assess all of the facts in the weekend attack.

“Why this officer was not shot by this assailant is unclear, but I’m grateful,” Moore said.

Commissioner Dale Bonner then asked him how the video had gotten out.

Moore said he didn’t know, but that it was under investigation. He said he was frustrated that it had been released outside the department’s normal process for releasing footage in critical incidents — a process that can, and often does, take more than a month — and “disappointed” in the Times for publishing the footage.

Commission President Eileen Decker echoed Bonner in saying she would like a follow-up from police on the outcome of that investigation.

“There are procedures and channels in place for the release of all of these materials in an appropriate way, and we don’t want to see any of those … violated,” Decker said.

The Times obtained the footage from sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share the footage with media.

Moore complained about the release of the footage — which brought significant attention to the incident — even as he suggested at the meeting that not enough attention was being paid by leaders in the city to recent attacks on police.

Several callers took a different stance.

On Moore and the commissioners focusing on the Times’ publishing the video, one caller said, “To me that says everything about what this organization is. All it does is try to keep everything secret.”

Another caller said that videos of critical incidents “need to be released sooner” by the LAPD after they occur.

By policy, the LAPD releases footage in incidents in which deadly force is used, but not for 45 days. The video can be released at any time under the chief’s discretion.

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©2020 Los Angeles Times

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