On Friday, Los Angeles Police Officer Ricardo Lizarraga became the first LAPD officer since 1998 to be shot and killed in the line of duty. It was a day the top brass had feared was coming.
In 2003, the year homicides citywide dropped by almost a quarter, shots fired at cops went up 21%. Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton attributes the drop in one and the rise in the other to the same thing: The Police Department's new resolve to go after the leaders of Los Angeles' most notorious criminal street gangs.
Many of the shootings at cops have occurred in South Los Angeles neighborhoods that have been hard hit by gangs and crime. Just two weeks ago, the area's black churches condemned the attacks and called for residents to work with police to find the people behind them. Monday night, church leaders came out again -- carrying candles memorializing the fallen officer.
On one level, Lizarraga's death while answering a domestic-violence call near Western Avenue and 48th Street appears unrelated to gangs. Volatile and unpredictable, domestic disturbances are perilous on their own, accounting for a third of assaults on police officers nationwide. After a woman flagged down their police car and pleaded for help, Lizarraga and his partner went to remove an abusive boyfriend from her apartment. Police say the man fled to a back bedroom, emerged with a gun and shot the 30-year-old officer just below his bulletproof vest.