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Community News: South

Leads Sought in Attacks on Officers

September 05, 1993|GREG KRIKORIAN

Just before midnight on Aug. 21, shots rang out at Nickerson Gardens as two Los Angeles police officers were on foot patrol. On Aug. 26, two other officers in a patrol car were fired on around sunset. And last Monday, gunshots again were aimed at officers, again missing them.

The City Council last week offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the gunfire aimed at police at Nickerson Gardens.

No officers or civilians were injured in the attacks, but lawmakers and the Police Department expressed concern that someone would be hurt.

"I'm very convinced they were trying to kill the officers," said LAPD Capt. Bruce Hagerty, commander of the Southeast Division, which includes Nickerson Gardens, a 5,000-resident, low-income housing development at Imperial Highway and Compton Avenue.

Hagerty said his concern was based not only on the series of shootings, but also on the number of bullets fired in each incident.

In the first shooting, 29 shots were fired at two officers walking a beat, Hagerty said, with 16 of them hitting walls at the chest or head level of the officers.

In the second incident, Hagerty said, two officers were patrolling Nickerson Gardens when a gunman approached their vehicle and fired 17 rounds. As the officers sped away, according to police reports, another gunman fired 12 more rounds at the car.

Finally, Hagerty said, two other officers escaped injury when they were shot at while riding in their patrol car just after midnight last Monday.

In all three cases, Hagerty said, police were shot at with automatic or semiautomatic weapons. And for reasons that Hagerty would not disclose, police believe the shootings were the work of gang members who may have been reacting to a recent increase in police patrols at Nickerson Gardens. The increase in patrols at the housing development followed a string of street robberies, Hagerty said.

"They (the shootings) are most definitely related and I am very troubled by it," Hagerty said. "Whenever you fire a volley of rounds at police officers, not only is there a chance that we will get a police officer shot or killed, chances are very likely that those bullets are going to hit innocent people, possibly killing them."

That prospect led Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., whose Watts-to-San Pedro district includes Nickerson Gardens, to win approval of the $25,000 reward at Wednesday's council meeting.

"This council has to be united in saying that if you make a Los Angeles police officer a target . . . we are going to put out a reward on you," Svorinich said.

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