As Los Angeles Police Officer George A. Rose clung to life Sunday night with a bullet wound to his head, his colleagues at the Southwest Station grappled with the unsettling likelihood that a fellow officer had accidentally fired the shot.
Rose, 30, a two-year veteran, was struck once in the head Saturday as police in the station's parking lot opened fire on an angry man who had followed his wife to the station and allegedly shot at her several times as she ran inside for protection.
At first, officers did not know whether the bullet that hit Rose was fired by his colleagues or by the suspect, who was chased down and booked on suspicion of attempted murder.
After more than eight hours of investigation, officials said they believed the shot came from an officer's gun.
"When the smoke cleared, we had an officer on the cement, with a bullet wound to the head," Lt. William Hall said late Saturday night. "It probably is going to be one of the officers. I say that because none of the officers believe the suspect fired in their direction."
Hall identified the two officers who had fired shots as Sgt. Jon Reese, 41, an 18-year veteran, and Officer Thomas Murrell, 28, a seven-year veteran. He said Reese fired 10 shots from his 9-millimeter pistol and Murrell fired one. The bullet that struck Rose was not recovered.
"Both officers feel very badly," Hall said, "and are traumatized by this."
On Sunday, as Rose remained in extremely critical condition on life-support systems at County-USC Medical Center, officers at the Southwest Station arrived for duty grim-faced.
Inside the lobby, 11 large black-and-white photos hang on the wall--all officers killed on duty while assigned to the station.
"Would it be hard for you if you found out that you shot a member of your family?" Sgt. Tim Diethrich asked, summing up the sentiments of the men and women working there. "They're human. They have emotions. But they're also professionals and they deal with it accordingly."
In the station's parking lot, officers headed to their patrol cars shortly before 3 p.m.--the shift that Rose was working the day before. Solemnly, they checked their shotguns and stowed them in the trunks before pulling out.
"A bullet is a bullet--it doesn't matter who's shooting," said Officer Wally Carr. "We're all just praying for him."
The incident began when a friend drove Antoinette Goodie, 41, to the station to seek shelter from her husband, Ray Phillips, 56, police said. Goodie's neighbor in the Mid-City area said Phillips had often threatened the woman.
"He's got a short temper and would always be cussing her out in front of her kids," said Tanya Lockwood, 30. "I never seen him hit her, but he was always threatening to do stuff to her, like, 'Bitch, I'll blow your head off.' "
Phillips was wearing a blue security guard's uniform when he was arrested, police said. Under state law, Phillips could face two counts of attempted murder, Hall said--one for Goodie and one for Rose.
Officers said Phillips had trailed Goodie and her friend, banging into their car in front of the station. He slid to the passenger seat and fired out the window with a .38-caliber pistol as Goodie ran into the station, officials said. Five bullet marks, each about the size of a nickel, were visible Sunday in the concrete wall by the entrance.
At the time of the shooting, 20 to 30 officers were in the parking lot on the west side of the building. "They saw it from the get-go," Hall said.
Fearing for the woman's safety, Reese and Murrell fired at Phillips, who was on the other side of the parking lot's five-foot cinder-block wall and a section of chain-link fence.
Rose, who was in uniform, was hit once and fell behind the wall. He underwent three hours of surgery at County-USC, where he was visited Saturday by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates.