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Two Long Beach officers shot

The driver of an SUV who was pulled over for a traffic stop opens fire and flees. The wounded men are recovering from surgery.

December 23, 2006|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Two Long Beach police officers were wounded Friday by a man who unleashed a barrage of gunfire during a traffic stop, sending downtown shoppers scurrying for cover.

Police Chief Anthony W. Batts said the two officers had stopped a sport utility vehicle at 6th Street and Long Beach Boulevard about 1:30 p.m. and stepped out of their patrol car when the driver jumped out and fired at least half a dozen shots.

The officers returned fire and the suspect fled, officials said.

Other officers loaded their wounded colleagues into police cars and drove them to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where Batts said they underwent surgery.

"They're putting up a good fight," the chief said. "They're fighting a good battle."

Department sources said a rookie officer suffered four wounds to the neck. His partner, a veteran training officer, was shot in the face but, officials said, the bullet appeared to have missed his brain.

Scores of officers with guns drawn cordoned off a swath of downtown Long Beach as they searched for the gunman, who was described as Latino or Filipino, 5 feet 7, up to 230 pounds, with a shaved head and tattoos on his arms.

Officials said it was unknown if the gunman was hit by the officers' bullets.

Several people were detained as witnesses.

"This is a very bad day for the city of Long Beach," Mayor Bob Foster said at an afternoon news conference. "We all hope and pray these officers make a full recovery."

Foster and other city officials asked for the public's help in tracking down the suspect, who fled in a white Nissan Pathfinder. Within the hour, the vehicle's license plate number -- 4AVN056 -- was displayed on electronic freeway signs.

Despite initial reports, Batts said authorities believe only the one person is responsible for the shooting, which took place a short distance from the Metro Blue Line's 5th Street station, on a street bustling with Christmas shoppers.

Police officials said the shooting amounted to an ambush.

The officers pulled over the SUV on a routine traffic stop, Batts said.

After running the license plate number, the officers got out of their car and began walking toward the Pathfinder.

The driver jumped out and wheeled around, authorities said, firing at least half a dozen shots, which hit the officers and pierced the patrol car's windshield.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call (562) 435-6711.

richard.winton@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@

latimes.com

Times staff writer Deborah Schoch contributed to this report.

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