Mortally wounded in the back, Officer Ricardo Lizarraga struggled down a narrow stairway, then fell to his knees by his partner's side to return an assailant's fire until he was hit a second time, authorities said Monday.
Police gave new details in the killing of Lizarraga as prosecutors Monday charged Kenrick Johnson with murder punishable by execution. Also Monday, two gatherings in the officer's memory drew more than 1,000 mourners.
Lizarraga, 30, was shot Friday while answering a domestic disturbance call with his partner, who was not injured. He was the first Los Angeles Police Department officer to be fatally shot in the line of duty in six years.
Johnson, a gang member with a long criminal history, was arrested after a manhunt of several hours. Police did not find a gun.
At a news conference, Chief William J. Bratton described the chaotic few seconds that preceded Lizarraga's death. In all, Johnson fired eight shots, Lizarraga two, and Officer Joel Ruiz four.
Lizarraga was "shot in the back, and the suspect pursued him down the stairs," Bratton said.
Johnson "wasn't attempting to flee," Bratton said. "He was shooting at them and pursuing them and attempting to take their lives."
Police gave the following account of the incident, which began when the suspect's girlfriend, Patrice Watson, sought help from police.
Lizarraga and Ruiz went to answer a domestic violence call that Watson had telephoned in.
Watson told the officers she was having trouble with a boyfriend. She did not allege that he had hit her, but said that she wanted police to make him leave.
She directed officers to the pink stucco rear apartment in a building in the 1700 block of West 48th Street, and they accompanied her up the stairs to the second story, around a sharp, blind corner and down a narrow balcony -- a dark corridor about five paces long and walled in by a wooden lattice -- to her three-bedroom apartment.
The officers went inside with her, and there met Johnson. They talked, and as Lizarraga moved to pat Johnson down, Johnson allegedly produced a gun.
When Lizarraga spotted Johnson's gun, he cried out to alert Ruiz, who hustled Watson out the door. Lizarraga was a few steps behind Ruiz and Watson as they retreated down the corridor, around the corner and down a set of stairs to the yard outside. Ruiz heard shots continue to ring out.
Bratton said police think Johnson fired the gun six times inside the apartment, striking Lizarraga as he headed out the door.
By now Lizarraga, wounded, had crumpled to his knees. Johnson then allegedly came around the corner and fired two shots from the second-story landing as both officers returned fire. Lizarraga was struck a second time in the side, along the edge of his bulletproof vest. Either shot was sufficient to kill him, Bratton said.
Johnson then allegedly retreated, broke several wood slats out of the latticework that closes in the balcony, squeezed out the hole to reach a neighboring roof, then shimmied across a chain-link fence to reach the back alley and flee.
Bratton excoriated this and other recent attacks on LAPD officers in the news conference Monday, and asked for the public's help in locating the weapon. He said the killing underscores the shortage of LAPD officers.
His comments followed a candlelit march in the memory of Lizarraga and 12-year-old Gregory Gabriel, who was recently fatally shot outside a nightclub in South Los Angeles.
The march began at 57th Street and Western Avenue and proceeded slowly nine blocks to 48th Street and Western, finishing at the building where Lizarraga was gunned down.
Outside the crime scene, marchers formed a long circle of flickering lights around city leaders including LAPD Asst. Chief Jim McDonnell, City Council members Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and state Sen. Dianne Watson.
McDonnell called united community outrage "the answer to the problems we face every day."
Parks, who represents the district where Lizarraga was gunned down, said, "We need to be looking at our children before they know what a gun is, before they drop out of school, before they go to prison."
A second candlelight vigil was held Monday night at the Newton station, where Lizarraga was assigned, with scores of police officers attending.
Times staff writer Erin Ailworth contributed to this report.