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LAPD report: no physical evidence that suspect ambushed 2 officers

A surveillance camera captured video of a man who two LAPD officers believed targeted them. No suspect was ever arrested.

A report by Los Angeles Police Department's Inspector General says crime scene investigators could not find physical evidence to support two LAPD officers' claim that they were ambushed by a gunman in front of the Wilshire station last year.  The story was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

According to the report by Inspector General Alex Bustamante, there are doubts about whether a suspected shooter actually fired a weapon last year on June 25 at two LAPD officers returning to the police station's gated parking lot on Venice Boulevard in Mid-City.

“A thorough examination of the officers’ vehicle and the surrounding area revealed there were no impacts or other physical evidence to support that the subject fired a weapon,” the report from the L.A. Office of Inspector General states.

Detective Humberto Tovar and police officer Bernard Romero told investigators they were returning from an assignment around 4:30 a.m. when they saw a man dressed in black clothing walking "briskly" as if he were jogging or "walking with a purpose," according to the report.

Tovar, riding in the police car’s passenger seat, warned Romero that it seemed like the man “appeared to be ‘amped up,’” the report states. Tovar told investigators he saw the man “make a two-hand motion as if he was assuming a shooting stance.”

Tovar didn’t see a weapon in the man’s hands as the suspect walked behind their car, but said he saw a flash and heard glass breaking, based on statements in the report. Believing the suspect was firing at them, he shot two rounds from inside the police car out the rear window. That was the beginning of the supposed gun battle.

The report concluded the 19-year veteran detective fired 23 rounds. Officer Romero fired five-to-10 rounds, four of which were unintentional and hit parts of the car's interior.

A security video camera from a building approximately 290 feet across the street from the police station captured parts of what happened. It shows the suspect running and “holding an unidentified object in his right hand,” according to the report.

Investigators found no evidence that would indicate the suspect was wounded by the officers’ gunfire. 

Romero, who was driving, had a two-inch cut to the back of his head, but a doctor didn’t describe it as a gunshot wound.

After reviewing the investigation into the shooting, L.A. Police Commissioners voted 3 to 1 on Tuesday that the two officers' decisions to open fire on the suspect was “objectively reasonable and in policy” because they believed their lives were in danger based on the man’s actions.

However, the commission criticized Tovar’s tactics for not carrying appropriate equipment. And it declared Romero’s four unintentional gunshots to be “negligent.”

LAPD chief Charlie Beck is responsible for administering any punishment to the two officers. A spokesman for Beck gave The Times a statement that read: "The actions of the suspect, the witnesses' statements and the officers' observations support the officers' belief that they were being fired upon."

The police shooting on June 25 shut down an entire neighborhood, limiting residents’ access for about 12 hours as police and L.A. County Sheriff’s teams searched for the suspected gunman.

No one was ever arrested for the incident.