LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A suspect already jailed on suspicion of carjacking was charged on Wednesday with opening fire on two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in a patrol car, an attack that was caught on videotape.
Footage of the Sept. 12 ambush on the two deputies outside a train station was broadcast nationwide and became part of the U.S. presidential race after both candidates called for the gunman to be dealt with harshly.
Deonte Lee Murray, 36, was charged with two counts of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the Los Angeles prosecutors said.
“We saw the worst of humanity. A cowardly act where a suspect ambushed and shot and attempted to kill two of our deputies,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference.
Murray, who was already in custody following his Sept. 15 arrest on unrelated carjacking charges, pleaded not guilty during an initial court appearance and was ordered held on $6.15 million bail by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Shultz.
Shultz ordered sheriff’s officials to investigate complaints by public defender Jack Keenan that Murray was being harassed by deputies assigned to guard him.
“He’s been denied food, his food has been repeatedly thrown in the toilet,” Keenan told Reuters in an interview. “They’ve woken him up at all hours of the night, threatened to physically harm him.”
Keenan declined to comment on the merits of the case against Murray, saying that prosecutors had not yet shown him any evidence beyond the videotape.
The graphic video footage, shot by a surveillance camera at the train station in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, shows a man walk up to the black-and-white squad car and fire a handgun through the passenger window. He is then seen fleeing on foot.
The deputies, identified only as a 31-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, both suffered gunshot wounds. Despite her injuries the female deputy was able to help her partner to safety and apply a tourniquet to his wounded arm.
Both victims survived and have since been released from a Los Angeles area hospital.
Following the shooting President Donald Trump said on Twitter that if the deputies died the suspect should face the death penalty for the “cold-blooded shooting.”
Democrat Joe Biden, Trump’s rival for the presidency in the Nov. 3 election, tweeted that “acts of lawlessness and violence directed against police officers are unacceptable.”
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Brad Brooks; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Stephen Coates)